Bears and Longhorns Face Off

With both Baylor and Texas at 3-4 in Big 12 play, both teams are in jeopardy of another loss getting them fully out of the serious Big 12 title race. Smaller picture though, both teams need a win to get their seasons back on track.

A surprise team from the year before, returning 100% of its scoring and adding a 5-star All-American is going to be ranked very highly the next season. A Top-10 rankings usually awaits them with open arms, especially when the name across the front of the jersey is "Texas". The Longhorns were a 24-game winner in 2013-14, finishing tied for 3rd in the Big 12 in a season that most expected to end with a bottom-3 finish and a new head coach calling the shots in 2015. With his team pretty much returning fully intact, and the addition of 5-star center Myles Turner, the expectations were higher than ever in Austin. A 3-4 start in Big 12 play and the injury of point guard Isaiah Taylor early in the year have dulled those expectations though. Now, this is a team looking to find itself. To find the secret sauce that led them to 24 wins in 2013-14 and to get back to those lofty Top-10 hopes.

With their third game in a row against a Top-20 team, the Longhorns look to get at least one win after losing the first two to Kansas and Iowa State. The Baylor Bears, also at 3-4 in Big 12 play, look to also bounce back from a loss to Oklahoma State earlier this week and get back to .500 in conference play as well.

No. 20 Baylor (15-5, 3-4) vs. No. 20 Texas(14-6, 3-4)
Date Saturday, January 31st, 2015| 5:00 p.m. CT
Location Waco, Texas | Ferrell Center (10,284)
Radio ESPN Central Texas
Online Audio Listen Online
Live Stats Gametracker
Twitter @BaylorMBB

Fun Stats of the Game

- These are two of the worst shooting teams during Big 12 play, with the Longhorns ranking 8th (43.2%) in 2-point field goal and the Bears rankings 9th (39.2%). Neither team has made more than 44% of their 2-point shots.

- Texas and Baylor have both been tested early in Big 12 play, with the Bears conference strength of schedule ranking 1st and the Longhorns ranking 3rd in difficulty.

- The Longhorns feature two of the best rim protectors in the game in Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley. Turner is 13th in block percentage in the nation, while Ridley is 59th. As a team, the Longhorns have the 2nd highest block % in the nation.

-Baylor is ranked in the Top-86 according to KenPom in all major defensive categories; including three-point % allowed, 2-point FG percentage allowed, Free Throw percentage allowed, block percentage and steal percentage

Keys to the Game

1. Make Texas shoot jumpers - This is a team that tends to fall in love with the jump shot, as they did early against Iowa State and saw a 20 point deficit staring them in the face. They have a very good shooting big man in Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix is a dangerous shooter from deep. The rest of the teams though is better when attacking the basket. Isaiah Taylor, their star point guard who has struggled some coming back from a wrist injury earlier in the year, is not a good shooter. He is an attacker and a guy that is extremely difficult to keep away from the rim. Myles Turner is a tremendously gifted player and a good shooter from inside 15 feet. He has a great post game and is a good finisher, but as is common with young big men - he falls in love with the long jumper at times. A 3-point shot or long jump shot by Taylor or Turner is a win for the Baylor defense.

Texas shoots a very good 62.3% at the rim (compared to Baylor's 55.2%) but they make just 34.5% of their 2-point jump shots and 34.3% of their 3-point jump shots. Isaiah Taylor makes just 30.2% of his 2-point jump shots but 59% of his shots at the rim. He has made 7 more shots at the rim despite taking 14 more jump shots this season. Turner is a better jump shooter (42%.2%) but is just dominant inside (64.4%). Both of these players are so much better when at the rim, but their natural tendancy at times is to shoot outside shots. Baylor needs to pack the paint and make them shoot, not let them get inside where they are very strong.

2. Grab those missed shots - Baylor fans got a good look at the Bears offense when we don't get offensive rebounds and putbacks against Oklahoam State. It wasn't pretty. With Kenny Chery missing 9 of his first 10 shots, and the Bears just grabbing 4 offensive rebounds. Baylor was outscored 9-8 in 2nd chance points as well against OSU, something that just can't happen with this team. Baylor is not good enough offensively to survive a lack of 2nd chance points. With both teams struggled to make jump shots, there should be plenty of chances to secure rebounds. Baylor is the best offensive rebounding team in the nation according to rebound percentage. Texas is not far behind them though, at 6th with both teams securing over 40% of their own misses. The best offense at times for both of these teams is to miss a jumper and hope one of their players gets a put-back opportunity.

While Baylor features one of the most dominant rebounders in the country in Rico Gathers, Texas spreads the responsibility out a bit more, with Myles Turner, Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes all being good rebounders for their position. Holmes is technically the starting power forward for the Longhorns, but with him and Connor Lammert on the court, either can play inside or outside on offense. This is one game where the Bears will not have a big size advantage at the wings, as Royce O'Neale is smaller than both Lammert and Holmes, their two primary small forwards. With a taller team, the Bears will have to use their quickness on both sides of the court to get to those missed shots.

3. Get Prince and O'Neale Going again - The two wing players for the Bears are a crucial part of their offensive attack. Prince, a junior forward can play either forward position and due it well. For the first half of the season, Price was one of the best 3-point shooter in the Big 12, making over 50% of his shots from deep through December. However, his shot has abandoned him recently, making just 5 of his last 23 shots from 3-point range, and seeing his average plummet to under 40% on the season. He has only averaged 12 points in his last three games, and has taken an average of 12 shots to get those points.

Royce O'Neale is coming off of possible his worst game as a Bear, a scoreless effort against Oklahoma State that saw him miss all four of his shots in 32 minutes, and commit 3 turnovers while tallying no assists. His offensive rating off 22 according to KenPom was by far a season and career low (previous low was 60 this year, and he averages a 120.5). With O'Neale being the primary small forward for the Bears, and sometimes shooting guard when they go with a bigger lineup, Baylor has to get much more from its senior wing. With both O'Neale and Prince struggling to make shots, Baylor isn't going to beat many teams. When you add in Kenny Chery's uncharacteristic shooting performance against OSU (3-13), then the Bears are going to struggle to beat pretty much anyone.

Predictions – Baylor wins 63-60 (67% chance for win) – Baylor wins 64-60 (66% chance for win)

RealTime RPI – Baylor wins 73-65

Tim Watkins Writer– Baylor wins 68-62

In most years, defending your home court is very important, especially in conference play. This year, it is critical. A home loss this season will put you behind the 8-ball and possibly below .500 at the end of the year. It is just too hard to win road games in the Big 12. With Baylor at home in this one, and home next week against TCU, this is a great time for Baylor to get on a winning streak and get over .500 for the first time in conference play.

The Bears will have to make jump shots to win this game, as the interior of the Texas defense is as good as any team outside of Lexington, Kentucky. With a much better shooting performance from Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale, the Bears feed off a strong crowd at the Ferrell Center to get a big win over the Longhorns as they continue to hang around the Top-25 poll and on the fringes of the Big 12 title race.

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