Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Central Florida Knights Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 10th 2024

Getting healthy and back on track is at the top of the wish list for 23rd-ranked Texas Tech on Saturday, but Big 12 Conference newcomer UCF brings its own agenda into Lubbock, Texas.

The Red Raiders have dropped three games in a row for the first time since last season. They enter the matchup on the heels of a road loss at Baylor when a second-half drought unraveled their hopes of recovery.

Texas Tech (16-6, 5-4 Big 12) has been without a key player in each of the last two games because of a flu bug that has run through the team. Coach Grant McCasland also was affected and coached on Tuesday after missing a few days with an illness.

A game tied at 51-51 got away from the Red Raiders in Waco when the Bears uncorked a 13-0 run. Baylor shot 65 percent in the second half (13 of 20) and dominated the paint, where Texas Tech was without 7-footer Warren Washington.

“There was that stretch in the second half when we couldn’t get a stop,” McCasland said. “Their switching caused us problems and made us panic a couple of times. We did a better job rebounding in the second half but we couldn’t guard. That is a really good team and we didn’t play our best. We have to play better in order to win, especially on the road.”

Whether the Red Raiders will be back at full strength remains to be seen, but returning home where they are 11-1 this season should be a boost. The challenge will be whether an offense that has sputtered of late can solve the Knights’ defense, which has been one of the best in the Big 12.

UCF (13-8, 4-5) leads the league with 116 blocked shots, ranks fourth with 189 steals and is fourth in opponent turnovers (314). The net result is that the Knights allow only 65.0 points a game, third in the Big 12.

In a 74-63 win against then-No. 23 Oklahoma last weekend, UCF logged season highs in blocks (nine) and steals (12).

The win was the 300th in Knights’ coach Johnny Dawkins’ career.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Dawkins said. “That can build up and put pressure on our guys. I want them to concentrate on what we’re trying to do as a team and the kind of season that we’re having and not get caught up in the number of wins for the coach they are playing for.”

The Knights have been competitive in their maiden run through the tough-as-nails league, led by Jaylin Sellers’ 17.2 points a game. He is also one of the busiest Big 12 players at the free-throw line, where he is 98-for-114. Darius Johnson adds 13.1 points a game with a team-best 83 assists. Ibrahima Diallo tops the league with 41 blocked shots.

Texas Tech guards Pop Isaacs and Joe Toussaint lead the way with 17.3 points and 12.7 points per contest. Toussaint has recorded 95 assists. Darrion Williams notched a career-high 17 points in the loss at Baylor.

–Field Level Media

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