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Bears Prove Muster against Raiders 68-60

Fival went west and won a road game

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears rode in and stole a defensive slugfest from the Texas Tech Red Raiders 68-60. This was Baylor’s first win on the season by single-digits.

Baylor won this game in the final 10 minutes of the game thanks to its four guard lineup around Mark Vital. from roughly the 10 minute mark to the 3 minute mark, Baylor outscored Tech 19-11, which provided the eventual final margin for the game.

Jared Butler, who had been heard scoreless until the 4:57 mark of the game, took advantage of the extra space to work on an island. He hit two off the dribble threes and dished of a drive to Davion Mitchell (17 pt, 5 reb) in the corner for another triple. Mitchell was the Bears most consistent source of offense, but MaCio Teague (14 pt, 4 reb) and Adam Flagler (15 pt, 3-6 3PT) were just as valuable.

Baylor’s backcourt provided the grit and toughness than won this game. After taking a 26-18 lead into the lock room, the Bears allowed Texas Tech to play freely for the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Raiders were physical on both ends, earning offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers and poor shots. The front court for Baylor simply didn’t have any presence in this game and is just the weakness that keeps people from calling Baylor the best team in the country.

Those four guard lineups, however, played with determination, especially on defense. Their versatility allowed them to switch everything on the perimeter, and four players crashed to the defensive glass when Tech’s shot clanged off the rim, which happened often.

Mac McClung (24 pt, 3 blk, 5 TOs) played well enough to win Tech today’s game. He rose up in transition and hit timely shots.

The first half was a battle of similar defensive styles. Both teams swarmed the ball when it got to the free throw line. Those turnovers led to fast break opportunities for both teams, who needed to capitalize on those easy opportunities. Both teams shot under 40% for the half. Baylor was held to its fewest points in a half this season (26) but held Tech even lower (18).

Mitchell and Teague had some early success driving to the basket for layups and bank shots, but those looks dried up after the second media timeout and Tech settled in. Before then, Baylor had enjoyed a 9-0 run over nearly 6 minutes of play. Outside of that run, offense in the first half came in bits and pieces. Butler and Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua combined to go 0-11 from the floor, offset by a combined 8-12 from Mitchell (who was perfect from the floor in the first half), Teague and Flagler.

Baylor’s defense showed why it is among the best - if not the best - in the country. Tech’s guards have no avenue to get the ball to the paint. Baseline drives resulted in out of control passes, post touches from bigs ended in turnovers, and desperation heaves bounced off the front rim. Tech’s only reliable offense (for lack of a better term) came in the semi-transition, after the initial push of the ball but before Baylor’s defense could be fully set.

Winning on the road in the Big XII is tough. It’s even tougher against a team like Tech, who grinds teams into the court and forces them into their style of game. Luckily, Baylor plays just the same way. Drew’s bold decision to play the Fival lineup for the final 10 minutes of the game gave Baylor the talent advantage it needed to separate. It’s a 40 minute game, and no one makes better use of all 40 minutes right now than the boys in green and gold.

Baylor’s next game will be a Monday Showcase game against Kansas in Waco. Tip-off is set for 8pm in what will assuredly be another fiercely competitive conference game.