Who: Texas Tech (11-4, 1-3) vs. Baylor (13-3, 3-1)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, United Supermarkets Arena
When: Saturday, January 16, 2:00 p.m. (CT)
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network
Notable: In Baylor’s two wins over Texas Tech last season, the Bears shot 76 percent from the free throw line (28-of-37), while the Red Raiders shot 51 percent (18-of-25).
Quotable: “That starts with me and people like [Terry Maston] coming in and snagging rebounds, and then [Johnathan] Motley. And it helps that our guards come in and get rebounds as well. When you're rebounding as a team and doing things like that to win games, that's what's going to help you down the road, especially when you're getting to go on the road to places like Lubbock."—Baylor forward Rico Gathers on Baylor’s rebounding prowess
Baylor’s only three losses this season came in road games. That sounds hopeful for Texas Tech. However, those road losses all came against ranked teams—Oregon, Texas A&M, Kansas—and in Baylor’s last road game they defeated Iowa State 94-89. So the chink in Baylor’s armor is not as deep as it seemed, and it may already have been repaired.
The Bears, whose point differential is plus-15, have a wealth of quickness and athleticism. Taurean Prince, who always seems to play well against the Red Raiders, averages 15 points, six rebounds and three assists per game. He is one of the better all-around players in the Big 12.
Hulking Rico Gathers—Baylor’s all-time leading rebounder--averages 13 points and 11 boards per contest, and shoots 56 percent from the floor. He is a primary reason why the Bears are plus-11 in rebounding margin.
Al Freeman is Baylor’s outside ace, nailing 42 percent of his three-point attempts, while Lester Medford is the floor general, dishing out seven assists per contest while turning it over only twice. Freeman and Medford are the classic point guard-shooting guard combination
The Bears are also getting outstanding contributions from the bench of late as Johnathan Motley (11 points and five boards per game), and Terry Maston (seven points and three rebounds per outing) have been on a tear, combining for 24 points and 10 rebounds per contest in Big 12 play.
While Baylor is on a three-game winning streak and riding high, Texas Tech is on a three-game losing streak and is listing badly to starboard.
After beginning conference play with an impressive win over Texas, the Red Raiders have fallen to Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State. The losses to the Cyclones and the Jayhawks were not entirely unexpected, but the 13-point defeat in Manhattan was an eye-opener. Either that game was a fluke, or Texas Tech is not as good as advertised following a strong non-conference showing.
A big part of Tech’s struggles has been poor outside shooting. The Red Raiders now connect on only 30 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, and in the last three games have hit only 13-of-53 of their 3-pointers (25 percent).
Toddrick Gotcher and Devaugntah Williams had been Tech’s most proficient deep shooters, and although Gotcher still shoots at a 41-percent clip from that range, Williams’ percentage now stands at 28 percent. Not good enough. On the bright side, Justin Gray’s three-point shooting percentage is up to 41 percent (on only 17 attempts, however), so he theoretically could pick up the slack for Williams’ inaccuracy.
Beyond the poor deep shooting, Tech’s statistical line still looks solid. The Red Raiders shoot 73 percent from the foul line, are plus-three in rebounding, and hold their opponents to 40-percent shooting. For Tech to get the W over Baylor, however, the Red Raiders will have to surpass anything they’ve shown in conference play so far, and that includes the win over Texas. If they can do this, they will sooth many nerves and validate the belief of many that the Red Raiders are a much improved club over a year ago.