LUBBOCK, Texas -- In a repeat performance of a year ago, Texas Tech has ascended from among the unranked to a prominent position in the national polls at it heads into a midweek nonconference game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.
The Red Raiders (7-0) have posted three attention-getting wins on neutral courts so far as they defeated USC and Nebraska in Kansas City in November and Memphis on Saturday in Miami. In doing so, Texas Tech jumped into the Associated Press poll at No. 20 last week and bumped up to No. 13 this week.
"We've taken advantage of opportunities," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "We competed for a championship in Kansas City, played some really good basketball. Then certainly playing a Memphis team that's only going to get better. ... We got better playing Memphis because of some things (Tigers coach Penny Hardaway) did to us."
A year ago, Texas Tech first entered the rankings in late November and, apart from a brief exit after a loss to Seton Hall, climbed back into the top 25 in mid-December and stayed there for the rest of the season.
This time around, the Red Raiders have a three-game home stand to try to build on their national reputation. It begins with the Golden Lions, who enter the United Supermarkets Arena with a 2-5 record so far this season.
However, Beard said his team's status won't be settled until Big 12 play begins.
"I think it's awful early first of all," Beard said. "This thing doesn't shape out until you start getting into conference play. To this point we feel like we've done what we're supposed to do in terms of protecting our home court."
Arkansas-Pine Bluff won back-to-back games against California Baptist and Arkansas-Little Rock in late November. But other than those two bright spots, the Golden Lions have lost by at least 16 points every time they've stepped on the court. Cincinnati dismissed Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a 105-49 drubbing on November 27.
Cincinnati pressured the Golden Lions into 31 turnovers and Arkansas-Pine Bluff shot just 32 percent.
"Cincinnati came out and did a great job putting their press on us and forcing us to make turnovers," Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach George Ivory told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Anytime your opponent scores 40-something points off turnovers and 30-plus off fast breaks, it's hard to win a basketball game. They're a pretty good basketball team with a great coach and I thought we never got into the game."
The task likely won't get any easier for Arkansas-Pine Bluff against a Texas Tech team known for its defense. The Red Raiders sit atop the national rankings in field-goal percentage defense at 33.8. Additionally, Texas Tech is third in scoring defense (53.3 points per game) and 14th in turnover margin (plus-41 in 7 games).
Wednesday night's game offers an intriguing matchup of scorers. The Golden Lions feature guard Martaveous McKnight, who is ninth in the nation in scoring at 25 points per game. Texas Tech will try to counter with guard Jarrett Culver, who is averaging 19 points.
After the Arkansas-Pine Bluff contest, the Red Raiders continue against Northwestern State and Abilene Christian next week before traveling to play Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 20.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is in the middle of a stretch of four-straight road games. After playing at Texas Tech, the Golden Lions finish the trek at California-Santa Barbara on Saturday.