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Jags tip off basketball season Friday

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(Lubbock, TX)--The University of South Alabama tips off its basketball season Friday against Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX.


Game 1 South Alabama Jaguars (0-0) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0)

November 10, 2017 8 p.m. United Supermarkets Arena (15,098) Lubbock, Texas

THE COACHES

South Alabama

Matthew Graves (Butler, 1998)

Record at USA: 51-78 (5th year)

Overall Record: Same

Record vs. Texas Tech: 0-0

Texas Tech

Chris Beard (Texas, 1995)

Record at TT: 18-14 (2nd year)

Overall Record: 189-64 (8th year)

LAST GAME

South Alabama gave up a late run in an 82-80 exhibition loss to North Alabama on Nov. 3. Texas Tech defeated New Mexico State 84-54 in an exhibition game on Sunday.

NEXT GAME

The Jaguars open their home schedule Monday against Mobile. The Red Raiders host Maine on Tuesday.

ON THE AIR

TV: Fox College Sports

Radio: 99.5 FM The Jag; J.D. Byars (pxp)

On the web: 995thejag.com/listen (audio)

RANKINGS (Through end of 2016-17 season)

USA: #229 RPI, #243 Sagarin

TT: #122 RPI, #43 Sagarin

THE SERIES

Tied 1-1.

Current winning streak: Texas Tech, 1 win

USA's last win in series: 76-67 (12/28/76)

Last meeting: Texas Tech 60, South Alabama 58 (12/10/77)

USA's record on the road: 0-1

USA's record in the United Supermarkets Arena: 0-0

USA's longest winning / losing streak in series: 1 / 1

Notes: The two schools played a home-and-home series in 1976-77 and 1977-78, with each team winning at home.

OPENING TIP

South Alabama last played a member of the Big 12 in the 2013-14 season at Texas.

The Jaguars lose five of its top six scorers from last season, who accounted for 67.6 percent of South Alabama's scoring.

Last season, South Alabama led the league in turnover margin (+3.16), steals (7.5 spg) and turnovers forced (16.3 pg) and were 15th in turnovers forced, 20th in turnover margin and 44th in steals in the nation.

Sophomore Josh Ajayi led the team in rebounding last year (5.4 rpg) and is the team's top returning scorer (10.6 ppg).

Ajayi accounts for 44.8 percent of the team's returning points. Ajayi scored 329 points last season, and the next highest total among the Jaguars' returnees is Herb McGee's 112.

Josh Ajayi's 329 points and 80 free throws made last year rank fifth in school history for a freshman.

In an 11-game stretch (all starts) during conference play, Trhae Mitchell averaged 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds, and shot 70.5 percent from the floor and 77.8 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Mitchell went 4 for 4 from the floor for eight points at Spring Hill, then recorded six points, three assists and three blocks vs. North Alabama.

Dederick Lee's assist/turnover ratio of 1.92 would have ranked fourth in the Sun Belt last year, but he did not meet the minimum of 3.0 assists per game.

Lee had four assists and no turnovers against North Alabama, and added two steals.

The Jags were plus-27 in turnover margin and averaged 9.0 steals in the last five games of the 2016-17 season.

Rodrick Sikes, averaged 22.5 points off the bench in two preseason exhibitions. He had 20 on an 11-for-11 performance at the free-throw line at Spring Hill, then led all scorers with 25 on five 3-pointers vs. North Alabama. He scored 45 points in 35 minutes of action.

Ajayi just missed a double-double vs. UNA with 17 points and nine rebounds. He went 5 for 8 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line.

Texas Tech's Keenan Evans finished seventh in the Big 12 in scoring last year (15.4 ppg), and Zach Smith was sixth in rebounding (7.2 rpg) and seventh in field-goal percentage (.507).

Head coach Matthew Graves on Texas Tech

On starting the season Friday: "We're excited to get the non-conference portion of our schedule underway. We worked really hard in the preseason to get prepared. We've had a chance to experiment with different lineups and gives guys different opportunities. As we start to head through the non-conference season, we'll start to narrow down that focus. I like where our team is at the moment."

On how the team has bounced back from the exhibition loss: "We're very accountable for how we played Friday. We were able to show in film the good, the bad and the ugly. We've identified some areas that we need to continue to work on. There was nothing that really surprised us, especially rebounding - we know we have to be better in that area. We know that it's a process in getting guys experience and game reps. We really believe we'll continue to get better as the season unfolds."

On Texas Tech's roster makeup: Coach (Chris) Beard has an extremely deep and talented roster this year. They've got experienced guys that have been through the wars of the Big 12. They've got great length and physicality. We're going to have to do a tremendous job of blocking out. On the offensive end, we're going to have to be very sharp in our execution. They do a great job of pressuring the basketball and forcing you to play 30 feet from the basket. We'll have to set up our cuts, be strong with the basketball and take good shots to be successful.

On the combination of Keenan Evans and Zach Smith: "They complement each other very well. You have a seasoned veteran guard in Evans that has the ability to score at many different levels and he has great size for a point guard. His ability to get in the paint and make plays, as well as score the ball, makes it a very difficult challenge to guard him. Smith, with his ability to play on the perimeter as a face-up 4 and shoot the ball from the 3 makes him a hard matchup. When you switch and play smaller guys on him, he has tremendous athleticism and you have to be physical and box him out or he'll hurt you on the inside. The key to why both of those guys are so good is they're both very versatile players."

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