You can count on a close game whenever Bruce Weber and Tubby Smith coach against each other.
They have faced each other 12 times throughout their long careers, and 10 of those games were decided by single digits.
Most recently, they have been involved in close games with Weber at Kansas State and Smith at Texas Tech. The Wildcats have won all three — 58-51 at Bramlage Coliseum earlier this season and 60-56 and 66-58 last year — but none were decided until the final moments. Before that, they went back and forth at Illinois and Minnesota, with Weber winning six of the nine matchups as Big Ten adversaries.
Weber is predicting more of the same when the Wildcats and Red Raiders meet at 8 p.m. Wednesday at United Supermarkets Arena.
“They play hard and they control tempo,” Weber said. “I think that is just his M.O. That is how they play. I guess it is our style, too. We don’t have the ability this year to explode and go get a lot of points. So I hope we make a bunch of shots and they don’t, but if it goes according to what has happened it is probably going to be a hard-fought, low-scoring game.”
Texas Tech has struggled mightily in its last two games, falling 81-36 at Oklahoma and 77-58 at West Virginia, so a return home against K-State offers hope at an ideal time.
The last time the Red Raiders played in Lubbock, they made 11 three-pointers and upset Iowa State.
“That just shows you,” senior K-State forward Nino Williams said, “anybody can beat anybody in our league.”
Another reason Texas Tech is looking forward to playing K-State: the Wildcats don’t have the manpower to use a full-court press. It lost 26 turnovers against West Virginia’s pressure over the weekend.
“They don’t do a lot of pressing, and that’s good being a young team like we are,” Smith said. “We struggle a lot to control the basketball.”
Weber said he may consider occasionally pressing Texas Tech, but, for the for most part, he will rely on his normal coaching techniques against Smith.
K-State has lost back-to-back games, so a victory – no matter how close – is needed against Texas Tech.
“Right now, we are just trying to survive,” Weber said. “Now, if we get a little bit of a run going in the second half of the Big 12 and keep that momentum going into the tournament, we will see what happens.”