Texas Tech is suddenly one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 and now-healthy big man Fardaws Aimaq is helping engineer the turnaround.
The Red Raiders go after their fifth consecutive victory on Saturday when they entertain No. 24 TCU in conference play at Lubbock, Texas.
The Horned Frogs (18-10, 7-8 Big 12) are staggering with five setbacks in six games as they try to complete a regular-season sweep of the Red Raiders.
But Texas Tech (16-12, 5-10) is now a different squad than the one that dropped a 67-61 decision to TCU in Fort Worth on Dec. 31.
Aimaq, a coveted transfer from Utah Valley, was sidelined due to a preseason foot injury that has limited him to seven games.
He made his Texas Tech debut on Jan. 14 and played in three games before aggravating the injury. Aimaq then sat out the next five contests before returning to play in each game of the current winning streak that includes wins over then-No. 12 Kansas State and then-No. 6 Texas.
Over the last three games, Aimaq is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds with two double-doubles. He scored a season-best 19 points and collected 10 boards in Tuesday’s 74-63 road victory over Oklahoma.
“I was just trying to do anything I could to help us win,” Aimaq said afterward. “My biggest strength is my rebounding. Any time I can do that, I’m going to do it at a high level. I try to release some pressure on our guards and let them know that they can take tough shots.
“I’m going to rebound everything I can. Down the stretch, we got some stops and key rebounds. That helped us pull out the win.”
Aimaq is averaging 11 points and 7.3 rebounds in seven games. His return to good health comes at a time in which Texas Tech needs to continue to rack up wins to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume.
Aimaq also is capable of carrying the Red Raiders down the stretch, as he was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year for Utah Valley during the 2020-21 season and a two-time conference Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged 18.9 points and 13.6 rebounds last season before entering the transfer portal.
Meanwhile, TCU is searching for the formula to end a six-game funk in which its lone win was a 100-75 home thumping of Oklahoma State last Saturday. The Horned Frogs lost four games to ranked teams during the span.
The momentum from thrashing Oklahoma State didn’t continue as the Horned Frogs lost 63-58 to No. 3 Kansas on Monday in Fort Worth. TCU matched a season low with seven turnovers but was frigid from the field while shooting a season-worst 30.3 percent.
“We just never got it right,” Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon said afterward. “That’s where it’s a disappointment. But any home loss is a disappointment and that’s how we have to go into it. But we got what we deserved.”
Star guard Mike Miles Jr. scored 13 points but was just 4-of-14 shooting in his second game since missing five contests due to a hyperextended knee. Miles had 15 points in his first game back against Oklahoma State.
Miles averages a team-high 17.7 points and shoots 51.5 percent from the field.
Miles scored 23 points in the win over Texas Tech on New Year’s Eve.
–Field Level Media