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We've got a big one in the Big 12 tonight — Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
For the past couple of weeks, it's been the Kansas men's basketball program that has had to keep pace with Texas Tech at the top of the Big 12 standings.
But tonight, it's the Red Raiders who will be trying to keep pace when they take on Oklahoma State at 6 p.m. in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Make no mistake about it: Tonight's game between Texas Tech and Oklahoma State is as big for the Big 12 race — and KU's quest for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title — as Saturday's showdown between the Jayhawks and Red Raiders in Lubbock.
The reason? Simple.
A win for Tech tonight sets up a potential winner-take-all scenario on Saturday, with the winner of the KU-Tech game taking a full one-game lead into the final two games of the season. Win out and the Big 12 is yours.
A loss for Tech tonight would set up Kansas with an opportunity to clinch at least a share of No. 14 by knocking off Texas Tech on Saturday.
Before moving on to a quick look at what comes after Saturday, let's take a brief look back at Texas Tech-Oklahoma State Round 1 to set up tonight's matchup.
That game, as you might have guessed, was won by the Red Raiders, 75-70 in Lubbock, on a night when the Cowboys led by 12 at halftime (37-25) but gave up 50 points to Texas Tech during the second half.
TTU guard Keenan Evans, as he has done so many times this season, led all scorers with 26 points in 37 minutes and got to the free throw line a dozen times to help secure the win.
Fabulous freshman Jarrett Culver added 25 for the Red Raiders, who needed every point they got to hold off the Cowboys back on Jan. 23.
Oklahoma State's offense featured more balance, with three players in double figures — led by Jeffrey Carroll's 16 — and six players scoring seven points or more.
Tech got to the free throw line 33 times — compared to just 19 for the Cowboys — and also made three more 3-pointers (10-of-19) than OSU (7-of-17) to pull out the victory. The Red Raiders also forced 20 Oklahoma State turnovers.
Since that night, Texas Tech has won six of seven games, with Saturday's loss at Baylor being the only setback. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, is just 2-4 since that loss at Texas Tech, but those two wins came against West Virginia and Kansas, so it's clear, based on both the first meeting with Tech and the victories that came after it, that the Cowboys are capable of making things tough for Texas Tech tonight.
That becomes particularly true if Evans, who was injured in the Baylor loss and has been listed as day-to-day, can't play or is in some way limited by the toe injury that cost him most of the Baylor game.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the KU-Texas Tech game will be huge for both teams.
And that fact is being reflected in the ticket prices for Saturday's game — 3 p.m. at United Supermarkets Arena.
According to Vivid Seats, the average ticket price for Saturday's game is $108 per seat. That is higher than all of Texas Tech's home football games this season.
In addition, the Vivid price for two lower level seats to Saturday's game is a whopping $976.
After Saturday, Kansas and Texas Tech both will have two games left and the Big 12 race ultimately could be decided by what happens in those as, well.
vs. Texas on Monday, Feb. 26 (Senior night)
at Oklahoma State on Saturday, March 3
And for Texas Tech:
at West Virginia on Monday, Feb. 26
vs. TCU on Saturday, March 3
Advantage Kansas there, as that road game at WVU is by far the toughest of the four. But Oklahoma State already beat KU once and Texas is a different team today than the one the Jayhawks played to open Big 12 play in Austin in late December.
The race is on. And it will get really interesting starting tonight.