The Bears (15-4, 3-2) enter Tuesday coming off of a blowout loss at Oklahoma, which was their second loss in Big 12 play. While the season is young, losing at home and dropping to 3-3 would make finishing in the top four of the conference a tough task considering the schedule in front of them.
Also on the mind of the Bears will be the 22-0 record of Texas against Baylor under Rick Barnes.
If Baylor is going to break the decade long streak, the Bears are going to have to have a hot night from three-point land. The Bears hoist nearly 23 three-pointers per game and 25 in Big 12 play.
For the Longhorns (14-4, 3-1), the game will be all about defense, rebounding and controlling the tempo of the game.
Damion James rolls into Waco arguably playing the best basketball of his career at Texas in Big 12 play. James is averaging 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in four conference games, including a season-high 28 points in Saturday's win over Texas A&M.
Joining James as a top performer for the Longhorns in recent games is sophomore forward Gary Johnson. In Big 12 play, the Aldine High product is averaging 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.
Johnson entered conference play red hot after four games of consistent scoring. In the last eight games, Johnson is averaging 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots.
In Baylor, Texas is facing a team that is one of the worst defensive teams in the conference. While the Bears surrender 41.9% from the field on the season, that number has ballooned to 46.3% and 79.4 points per game given up on average in five Big 12 games.
The Longhorns hold a 153-75 series advantage over Baylor, including an 82-77 win the last time the two teams met in February 2008 in Waco.
The winner of Tuesday night's game will take a big step toward finishing in the top four of the conference race and receiving a first round Big 12 Tournament bye.
The game is set to tip-off at 8pm central and will be televised on markets in the state of Texas.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 463-231, including 261-97 at Texas. Barnes is 123-41 in Big 12 games at Texas.
Scott Drew is in his fifth season as the head coach in Waco. Drew has a career record of 92-95, including 72-84 at Baylor. The Bears are 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament under Drew.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 43.5% from the field, 32.2% from three and 65.2% from the free throw line.
The Bears convert 48.4% overall, 39.4% from the three-point line and 68.9% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender just 39.3% shooting and own a +5.7 rebound advantage.
Baylor surrenders 41.9% defensively and checks in with a +1.4 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 12.1 turnovers per game, while the Bears are turning the ball over 13.5 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (16.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals)
F Gary Johnson 6-6 So. (11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks)
F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks)
Key reserves include 6-0 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (2.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists), 6-10 sophomore Matt Hill (1.4 rebounds), 6-10 junior Dexter Pittman (8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.4 points and 1.6 rebounds)
The Bear Starters
G Curtis Jerrells 6-0 Sr. (11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists)
G Tweety Carter 5-10 Jr. (10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists)
G Henry Dugat 6-0 Sr. (12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals)
F Kevin Rogers 6-8 Sr. (12.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks)
F Quincy Acy 6-7 Fr. (6.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and1.3 blocks)
Keys to the Game
Tuesday will be a battle of tempo and totally different strengths. Texas is going to be at their best when the game is more of grind, shots are released inside 15 feet and the Longhorns pound the offensive glass and defend in the half court on the other end. Baylor is just the opposite as the threes will fly, the tempo quick, transition defense tested and defense on the other end at times optional.
Make no mistake about the game Tuesday, the Baylor players, staff, fans, community and everything else associated with Baylor want this game badly. The Texas players have to understand this is one game Baylor would like to win more than any other this year in the regular season. Baylor are losers of 22 straight including some real tight games the last two years that could have gone either way.
Defending Curtis Jerrells will be a tough task. The lefty is smooth off the bounce and is strong with the ball. The question becomes how many jumpers can one force him to take going to his left as that is the desired spot on the floor one would ideally like him to be when trying to score. If Jerrells has his defender on their heels and he is going right at will, it will be a long night. Jerrells is a 36.6% three-point shooter that loves to pull up off the bounce in transition. He sets his man up with a little hesitation and shoulder fake creating enough space to get a shot off. Going right, he will go hard at ones chest and step back for the three.
Henry Dugat is the top and sometimes the only defender on the Baylor team. Dugat is quick, reactive and can be a pest in the passing lanes as well as the occasional pickpocket when his opponent turns their back to the defense. Whoever draws Dugat must be aware of his ability to create turnovers and then speed and quickness to create transition-scoring opportunities that follow.
Kevin Rogers is the top low block scorer for the Bears, but can often be seen roaming the perimeter and settling for mid-range jump shots. If Rogers wants to shoot face up jumpers, that is just fine as long as a Longhorn puts a body on him after the shot goes up and doesn't watch the ball in the air and create an offensive rebounding opportunity for Rogers following his own shot.
Freshman Quincy Acy is a bouncy forward that is as quick off the floor a second time as he is the first. A leaper with the ability to finish with dunks in traffic, Texas must foul hard and make Acy convert free throws, which he struggles to do at 50%.
Last year, Baylor was very poor on ball screen defense. This year, Texas isn't running as much ball screen offense and has gone to more of their motion game or money set. If Texas is stagnant and doesn't force Baylor to rotate more than once on every possession, they are playing into the hands of a below average defense. Forcing Baylor to rotate and defend more than 20-seconds into the shot clock isn't what they want to do.
Texas has to use their strength, getting shots to the rim and hammering the opponent on the offensive glass. Texas has to be patient, can't get into a three-point shooting contest and pound the ball inside. Baylor only wants to play six players and there is a significant falloff if Rogers and/or Acy get in foul trouble.
Off the bench, LaceDarius Dunn is an explosive scorer that can make three pointers in bunches. He has a knack for getting clean looks without shooting a classic raise up jump shot. He'll fire from long range off the half step, fading away, with the use of a jab step and any other way he can create enough space to release the ball. Making Dunn defend on the other end and forcing him to put the ball on the floor going right is the best defense for his offense.