No. 8 Texas Tech brings 8-game win streak to Iowa State

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Not long ago, the clash between No. 8 Texas Tech and host Iowa State on Saturday was setting up to be one of the hottest tickets of the Big 12 season.

After all, it's the regular-season finale and a battle between the Red Raiders' No. 1 conference defense and the Cyclones' No. 1 conference offense. It's also a chance for Texas Tech to exact some revenge in Ames, having dropped the first meeting in Lubbock on Jan. 16.

Instead, it's a meeting of two teams heading in opposite directions when hard-charging Texas Tech (25-5, 13-4) faces reeling Iowa State (20-10, 9-8) at Hilton Coliseum.

The Red Raiders have an eight-game winning streak, their longest ever in Big 12 play, and with a win can claim at least a share of the conference championship -- their first in the Big 12 and first of any kind since 1996.

"This is what it's all about," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "This is the thing we talk about. We always want to be a part of the fight. You want to be trying to play your best basketball during March."

The Cyclones used to be in the Big 12 title conversation after a 75-74 win at Oklahoma lifted them to 18-5 and 7-3 in the league, including that road win over the Red Raiders.

Since then, ISU has dropped five of its last seven, the last two by double digits. The Cyclones fell at West Virginia on Wednesday, 90-75, with leading scorer Marial Shayok sitting out with an injured foot. He was hurt in a scrap at practice on Monday that began with a what Iowa State coach Steve Prohm called a "hard foul in transition" that "kind of spilled over."

Whether Shayok returns Saturday will be a game-time decision, according to multiple media reports.

"It's frustrating from the standpoint because you know you've got to change it now," Prohm said. "This season has been good. We want it to be great. We were on pace for that, and now we've kind of gotten hit in the mouth a little bit."

When the Cyclones were humming, their 3-point shooting was a major reason why. They are still the top-scoring team in the Big 12 (77.9 points per game) and top shooting club (47.8 percent) and rank third in the league in 3-pointers made (254) and 3-point percentage (36.1 percent).

In four of the five recent losses, Iowa State has shot less than 30 percent from outside the arc.

That doesn't bode well against the Big 12's stingiest defensive team. Tech is allowing only 58.2 points a game and limits foes to 36.5 percent shooting overall and 29.6 percent from 3-point territory -- all tops in the conference.

Only one of the eight foes during the Raiders' winning streak has topped 55 points. In a 70-51 rout of Texas on Monday, the Longhorns were 16 of 54 from the floor and just 4 of 18 from 3-point range.

"Defense is our identity; it's our DNA," Beard said. "When our team plays defense like we did (Monday), we are more than competitive."

Whether ISU can be competitive on Saturday could hinge on Shayok's availability. If he does play, the Cyclones should also benefit from the emotions of Senior Day with Shayok and three others set to be honored.

--Field Level Media