The Bears and Longhorns square off Monday evening in Austin, as the Bears look to bounce back after a tough loss at home to the Wildcats. Baylor comes into this contest at 22-5 overall and 9-5 in conference play. After a 17-0 start to the season, the Bears are just 5-5 in their last 10 teams. This is a Baylor team that is struggling as we get later into the year for the 2nd straight season.
The Longhorns are 17-10 overall and 7-7 in conference play. Before a stunning loss at Oklahoma State Saturday (90-78, ouch), the Longhorns had strung together 4 wins in a row to get over .500 in conference play. They beat Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Kansas State, and Oklahoma, so none of those 4 wins were against the top four teams in the Big 12.
|Rank and Records||BAY||TEX|
|Strength of Schedule||#11||#29|
|RPI Top 50||7-5||3-7|
After the jump, let's take a look at the first game between these two teams, who the Longhorns are now, the keys to the game, and finally my prediction.
The First Meeting - January 28th, 2012, Bears win 76-71
The Bears were in control of this game for the most part. One of those games that looks closer on the final box score than it actually was. The Bears had a balanced attack with 4 players scoring in double digits, led by Perry Jones III with 22 points.
The Longhorns really stayed in this game behind the great 2nd half shooting of J'Covan Brown. He had 32 points on 11-22 shooting (4-10 from 3pt range), while playing every minute of the game.
The four factors above show how much the Bears really dominated this game. They shot better, they rebounded better, and they were more aggressive and got to the free throw line more. However, Baylor's inability to take care of the ball late kept this game closer. The Bears had 18 turnovers to just 9 for the Longhorns, with 4 of those turnovers for the Bears coming in the last 4 minutes.
Who are these Longhorns now?
The Longhorns have really matured and improved since the Bears last saw them. They are playing really good basketball. Starting off the season just 2-6 in conference play, to get to 7-6 heading into the weekend had to be considered a success.
They are led by their scoring guard (in every definition of the term) J'Covan Brown. He is the leading scorer in the Big 12 with 19.7 ppg. He has been ever better in conference play, scoring 20.1 ppg while still averaging 3.5 assists per game. He is the only player in the Big 12 where I would not be shocked if he scored 50 points in a game. When he gets hot, watch out.
Around Brown, Texas has a cast of young players and experience role players. Two freshman, Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo are the only other players for the Longhorns that average over 10 points per game. Texas does have a single other player in the top 20 in scoring in the Big 12. Despite that though, the Longhorns are 5th in the league in scoring per game during the conference season averaging 69.6 points per game.
The Longhorns have struggled to stop people though this year, something that is usually not a problem for Rick Barnes' teams. They allow 67.8 points per game, and have been outscored so far in conference play by 1.8 points per game.
Texas runs out an 8 man rotation usually, with 7 players over 20 minutes per game. They have some good size out of that group with 6-10 Clint Chapman, and then 3 players at 6-7 in Alexis Wangmene, Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond. Out of their top 8 guys, 5 of them are freshman. This is a young team that is getting better late in the year.
5 keys to the Game
1. Force players not named Brown to beat you
J'Covan Brown can win a game by himself. He is a deadly scorer. Make other players beat you. Right now, he is taking about 27% of the shots the Longhorns put up. If we can get that closer to 20%, I would be very happy. I would much rather see Kabongo take a bunch of long shots than Brown.
2. Stay even on the turnovers
The Bears had twice as many turnovers in the first game. Keep em close this time Bears. Can't score if you don't get a shot on a possession. If the Bears can force some turnovers and get into the open court, that will speed up the game and let the Bears play at their tempo. Stay within 3 on turnover margin bears.
3. Make some shots
Simple enough, but the Bears really have only shot well in 1 game in the month of February. The Bears need to move the ball and get open looks. When the Bears get the ball into the paint, their offense is much more efficient. They did not do this against Kansas State, and it cost them. Shoot 44% of more Bears. Make some shots.
4. Get to the line
The Bears did a great job of this in the first game, getting to the line 34 times. If the Bears can be aggressive and get foul shots, they have been a very good team from the line this year. Jones III and Quincy Miller both had over 10 FT attempts. Hopefully the Bears can get 28 or more free throw attempts.
5. Limit the 2nd chance points
I fear Clint Chapman tapping the ball out to an open Brown and him hitting open 3-pointers. An offensive rebound and a tip out is the hardest play to defend. It causes the defense to scramble as they are out of position going for the rebound. If the Bears want to win, hold them to under 10 second chance points.
I am not extremely confident in this game. I felt that way before the Saturday loss to the Wildcats. I expect UT to come out and play hard, and for Brown to get going early and make us pay for starting in the zone. Kabongo is an excellent defender, and Pierre Jackson has struggled against the good defensive point guards he has played (Taylor from KU, Pressey from Missouri). When Pierre struggles, we struggle as an offense. I hope I am wrong, Bears lose 72-69.