Dave Aranda must love this basketball team. The Baylor Bears (22-1, 11-0) rode another tremendous defensive effort to beat the walking dead Texas Longhorns (14-10, 4-7) 52-45. In a re-run of the previous matchup, Texas held Baylor below 35% shooting and never looked to be in contention for the game in the second half.
Baylor now sports a 21-game win streak and has sole possession of longest win streak by a Big XII team.
In a game where neither team was in danger of cracking 60 points, Baylor’s scoring was evenly distributed. MaCio Teague was the leading scorer with 11 points, but Mark Vital (8 points, 8 rebs, 2 stl) was consistently the spark Baylor needed. When the offense was bogged down, his rebounding and turnover creation led to scoring easier opportunities for himself and his teammates. Davonte Bandoo was also big off the bench. His 4-6 shooting gave him 10 points and the honors of being the only Bear besides Teague with double-digit points.
While it is tempting to credit Baylor poor shooting to Texas’ defense, the challenge for Baylor was once again using movement to open opportunities. The offense frequently reduced to an isolation or a high pick-and-roll. Every defense Baylor faces now is prepared for that play. They stay home, hard hedge the ball handler, and the Bears have to put up a contested shot. Things looked up when Baylor could get ball and player movement, either in transition, by cutting, or by Texas (mercifully?) pressing in the full court, which gave Baylor space to find shooters after getting the ball over half court.
Jericho Sims (9 pts, 14 rebs) and Royce Hamm Jr. (6 pts, 7 rebs) brought the only energy Texas had on the court. Their rebounding and interior activity were often the only reliable part of the Longhorns’ attack. The guards for Texas were a troubling 11-36 while Kamaka Hepa was 0-5 and 0 points. As a team, Texas was 30% from the floor and below 18% from three. The offense is unimaginative, and no one aside from the two bigs looks like they care about wearing burnt orange.
It should be noted that Tristan Clark (o pts, 3 rebs, 5 fouls) had a very bad game after showing some recent improvement. His lateral movement was atrocious, leading to bad fouls, blow-bys from drivers, and a permanent seat on the bench after earning 5 fouls in 7 minutes. Improvement is rarely a straight line upward.
The game, while not really in doubt, was still relatively close until a 7-0 run from Baylor put some distance between the teams. Matthew Mayer then hit Bandoo on a beautiful backdoor pass that felt like the first nail in the coffin with 10 minutes left in the game. Baylor’s run came in the midst of a near 6-minute scoring drought from the Longhorns.
Baylor’s offense in the first half was generated almost solely from either transition opportunities or Butler isolations. The Bears were a poor 33% from the floor and 2-8 from three in the half. Vital, surprisingly, led all scorers with 8 points, which is not typically a recipe for success. Even still, Texas was a very bad 24% from the floor and 1-6 from three. Butler and Teague forced shots driving to the rim, trying anything they could to grind out points. Too often those were isolation attempts against a set defense. Baylor’s offense is best when it can create movement. That movement opens up drive-and-kick opportunities and offensive rebounding opportunities.
This game resembled much of the last matchup between these teams in Waco. A poor shooting game guised as a “defensive” matchup. While there were certainly stretches where Baylor’s defense made its presence felt — the Bears had a sequence in which they forced three consecutive live ball turnovers that generated 5 points — there were plenty of opportunities for the Longhorns to take control of the game. Those opportunities often came with Clark in the game. While he has shown some progress lately, Clark was particularly slow moving laterally on defense. He simply couldn’t stay in front of whoever was driving at him, either committing the foul or allowing the blow-by for a shot at the rim. If Texas had scored its layups (or if Baylor had converted more of its transition opportunities), the game would have had a much different complexion.
Baylor will face a huge challenge Saturday as West Virginia comes to Waco. The Mountaineers feature an outrageously good defense that rivals Baylor’s own. If Baylor doesn’t bring its A-game, the win streak could well end this week.