25th Ranked Baylor goes on the road to take on 24th ranked Texas

The Baylor Bears and Texas Longhorns face off in a battle of Top-25 teams to see who can emerge as a late contender for the Big 12 title.

The stories of these two teams have been polar opposites, with the Bears losing 4 of their last 8 games after being in first place in the Big 12 for a brief period of time.  The Longhorns, on the other hand, got off to a horrible start on the season losing three of their first five games, and starting conference play at 1-2.  However, they have won 5 of their last 7 games, including a victory over these Bears in Waco.  Both teams are now 8-5 in Big 12 play, just 2 games out of the lead.  Whoever wins this one will still have an outside chance of a Big 12 title. 

MEDIA INFORMATION

No. 25/22 Baylor (19-8, 8-5) at No. 24/25 Texas (17-9, 8-5)

Date - Feb. 20, 2016 | 1:00 p.m. CT

Location - Austin, Texas | Erwin Center (16,734)

TV - ESPN and WatchESPN

Radio - ESPN Central Texas

Online Audio - Listen Online

Linve Stats - Gametracker

Twitter - @BaylorMBB

STORYLINES

  • Saturday is the 247th all-time series meeting, the most-played rivalry in Baylor history, dating back to 1905-06. 
  • Baylor is 9-7 in its last 16 games against UT after snapping a 24-game losing streak in the series in 2009. 
  • Baylor is 4-2 in Big 12 Conference road games this season, the best road record of any Big 12 team. 
  • Baylor is 19-0 this season when it has taken the lead at any point in the 2nd half of a game. 
  • Baylor needs one more win to reach 20+ wins for the 5th straight season and 8th time in the last 9 years. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

1.  Make Shots - This is easier said than done against one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.  The Longhorns allow just a 46.2% effective field goal rate, 39th best in the nation. They play aggressive defense, designed to take away motion from off the ball and limit space for shooters.  This does at time leave driving lanes, but Prince Ibeh is one of the best pure shot blockers in the nation.  With him now being able to defend without fouling (something that has plaqued him throughout his career), he is one of the most dominant defenders of the past few months.  Baylor fans saw this up close as Ibeh had 5 blocks against the Bears earlier this week, not even including many other altered shots.  

In that first game, the Bears simply did not make enough shots to stay in it.  They had some open looks, but failed to convert enough of those into points.  Against a pressure team like Texas, you will have to make contested shots, or try and get them over-aggressive and get to the foul line.  Baylor attempted 22 free throws against Texas, a solid total for them, but only shot 35.2% from the field, and made just 5-17 from 3-point range.  

2. Win the Post - The other area the Bears were beaten handily in was in the post.  Prince Ibeh was sensational on both sides of the court.  He was his usual self on defense, and a big reason for the Bears poor shooting, but also was a surprise contributor on offense.  He scored 9 points on 4-5 shooting, with most of those coming off of low-post moves deep in the paint against Rico Gathers and company.  Starting forward Connor Lammert also hurt the Bears, scoring a team high 15 points and making 3-4 from behind the arc.  

Rico Gathers had a strong game for the Bears, scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, but he had little help.  TJ Maston and Jonathan Motley combined for just 7 points, 2 rebounds and no blocks. They made just 2-7 shots and did very little to slow down the physical Longhorns down low.  

Baylor won the rebounding battle, 34-30, but both teams scored 22 points in the paint. At best, this was a draw due to Gathers great play, but in the overall picture, the Longhorns won the battle in the paint.  The Bears need the Maston and Motley that carry the bench, giving them a huge weapon against 2nd units.  With Gathers missing two of the past three games due to illness, his availability is not certain at this point.  Without him, the Bears backup postmen will have to step up even more.  

3. Play with Purpose. Play with Urgency - At times, the Bears can fall into a malaise on offense, with little movement off the ball, no post ups or screens, and one-on-one action dictating the end result. This is the Bears offense at its worst.  With so many creators and shot makers, this is a team that thrives on movement and getting the ball to the right person at the right time.  When the Bears are free to move around, we see 100 point games and shot making (like we do against Iowa State). However, the Bears have not been the same team when faced with a much more physical and challenging defense in terms of style.  Texas is much more like the latter, willing to take fouls off the ball to simply not let you get moving to the areas of the court you want to be in.  

Sometimes, you just have to want it more than your opponent, and not make the easy decision, but the right one.  Baylor has to force the action and take it to Texas, on both sides of the court.  Defensively, the Bears had a good game against Texas, even though they shot 47.7% from the floor.  When Kerwin Roach hits back-to-back 3-pointers early in the game as a 27.9% shooter, you have to shugg your shoulders and go okay.  The Bears will take that shot every time down the court.  He has made 12 all year, and they will give him that shot again Saturday afternoon.  Just because he hits it doesn't mean it was bad defense.  

WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME?

The Bears suffered their 2nd straight home loss in Big 12 play, 67-59, in a game that was very close till the final minute. The Bears trailed for most of the game, but tied it on three seperate occassions in the second half. However, they could never grab the lead, and Texas hit big shots down the stretch to get out of Waco with a win.  Rico Gathers led the Bears with 20 points, while Taurean Prince scored 18 and Lester Medford 10.  Texas did enough against the Bears zone, with 21 assists on 21 made field goals to get the win.  

PREDICTIONS

KenPom.com – Baylor loses 74-68 (29% chance for win)

Massey.com – Baylor loses 74-68 (29% chance for win)

Tim Watkins, BearsIllustrated.com - Baylor loses 72-64

The Longhorns are playing some excellent basketball right now.  Their only losses since January 12th have been on the road to Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State by a combined 22 points.  They lost at Oklahoma by just 3 points, and had multiple chances to win that game.  This team is fully bought into Shaka Smart's schemes, which he has smartly adjusted and tweaked throughout the year to match his teams strengths.  

I think this game will be very similar from the last one, where it is close almost throughout, but Texas gets enough breaks and big-shots to get a win.  


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