The highlight of the game for Baylor came as the buzzer sounded, when Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard cursed out his own players and shouted for a public apology to Scott Drew from Andrew Sorrells for lobbing an alley-oop to Avery Benson as time expired.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders (21-5, 9-4) had no trouble putting away the injury-plagued Baylor Bears (16-9, 7-5) 86-61. Makai Mason was a late scratch with the same toe injury that held him out of last weekend’s game against Kansas State, and King McClure missed his 3rd straight game with a knee injury.
The talent disparity was obvious throughout the game. Baylor’s reliance on players like Obim Okeke and Darius Allen (whose sole contribution to the game was to foul a three-point shooter he lost in the corner) proved to be too great a weakness to overcome. Meanwhile, Vital was almost totally neutralized as an offensive player. He is most effective on offense as a secondary ball handler, driving against a rotating defense. Tech’s aggressive switching defense sank toward the paint whenever he touched the ball thanks in part to the absence of the outside threats of McClure and Mason. Floor spacing unlocks Vital’s game. Today, it just wasn’t there.
Jared Butler ( 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) was Baylor’s best player. He penetrated Tech’s tough defense without much trouble and was the most reliable outside option — besides, inexplicably, a red hot Mario Kegler who was 3-6 from deep and a 4-point play. Devonte Bandoo (8 points, 6 rebounds) needed to have a big game like he did Monday against Oklahoma. He did not. Both Butler and Bandoo are miscast as lead guards. Butler has the potential to get there soon, but he’s still learning the fine art of reading and manipulating defenses.
On the other side, Jarrett Culver (18 points, 8 rebounds) had an impactful if imperfect game. Despite having a rough day from the field (4-11), he found his three-point stroke (3-6) and got to the free throw line (7-8). Davide Moretti (17 points) was Tech’s other big offensive contributor, mostly from outside.
Somehow, Butler’s biggest problem was over-penetrating against a team that typically allows little. Butler frequently found himself near the rim with nowhere to go and no one to receive a dump-off pass. Twice Butler tried to dime up Vital, who wasn’t ready for the ball. Butler needed to take a few more floaters of short jumpers to take advantage of the space his dribbling provided him.
Baylor struggled with turnovers all game, inside and out. The Bears totaled 19 turnovers to Tech’s 8. Kegler and Gillespie missed a fair bit of this game due to foul trouble, both picking up their fourth fouls in the first two minutes of the second half. Gillespie fouled out on an illegal screen with 9 minus remaining. That put a lot of pressure on Flo Thamba and Matthew Mayer to contribute in larger minutes. Thamba set good screens, but he turned the ball over — literally — every time he touched the ball inside.
Both defenses had good showings, despite what the three-point stats may suggest. Both teams were well below 40% from the field for the game, despite being above 40% from three in non-garbage time. The first half, especially, exhibited the odd dichotomy between interior and exterior defense. Both teams were a combined 4-25 inside the arc but 15-27 outside it. Interior play on both ends was, obviously, ugly. Tech tallied 5 blocks. Compare that number to Baylor’s 4 first half assists, and you have a pretty good picture of how this game started out.
Butler was Baylor’s best player of the first half. His 3-4 shooting from three helped him earn 13 points along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. He was the biggest reason Baylor hung around, if that phrase can be applied to a team that trailed by 13 points entering halftime.
The difference in the first half came from the free throw line. The Raiders were 17-19 from the charity stripe, while Baylor, the league’s worst at drawing free throws, was a modest 7-11. By game’s end, 63 total free throws were taken. It was an ugly, unwatchable affair for all involved.
Baylor’s next game will be against Iowa State in Ames on Tuesday night, 8PM CT.