WACO, Texas - The Baylor Bears (17-5, 6-3) rode the home crowd and a 13-0 second half run to a second straight top-25 victory, downing the Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-6, 5-4) 79-73.
Tonight’s win ties Baylor and Iowa State for 2nd in the conference just 1 game back of Houston.
Despite being a team known for drive-and-kick threes, the Bears dominated the game in the paint. Baylor outscored the Red Raiders 36-20 in the painted area and held a massive 32-16 advantage in free throws, though about 6 of those attempts came as Tech tried to foul their way back into the game with some amount of success. Baylor’s guards continue to struggle closing out games at the free thrown line.
The Bears were led tonight by RayJ Dennis, whose 21 points came on just 9 shots.
The decisive run felt like a familiar friend of yester-year. Around the 10 minute mark, a Jayden Nunn three-pointer from the corner ignited a 13-0 run over the next 3:24. Tech had 3 turnovers in that stretch and was 0 for 4. The real highlight came from the true freshman Yves Missi, who had several poster worthy slams tonight. As he gathered himself at the free thrown line, KyeRon Lindsey stood between him and the basket. The scouting report had told him not to let Missi get right, but having four fouls made that difficult.
“We didn’t want Missi going right,” Coach Grant McCasland (BU ‘99) said of the play, “but then we just let him go right and dunk it.”
And boy did he:
That run was sparked, in part, by Coach Scott Drew’s decision to play a little small with four guards and Langston Love (who exited the game late with an apparent leg injury which Coach Drew made little comment on) at power forward. If it forced five turnovers in five minutes and a game-winning run like that, then yeah, that seems to have worked.
“We’ve played four guards before,” Drew explained afterwards, “That’s been an efficient lineup for us...it wasn’t that Jalen (Bridges) was doing anything wrong. That lineup gave us some burst and we wanted to run that run out.”
Something else that was working was Nunn’s driving ability. He went to it early in the game, scoring 6 of Baylor’s first 8 points by barreling towards the rim. But in the second half, too, he seemed to sense most that Tech’s bigs were in foul trouble and couldn’t challenge him at the rim. He finished the night with 14 points and 5 rebounds.
There was a personal aspect to this game tonight for both coaches. Grant McCasland played guard for Baylor from 1995-99, a few years before Drew’s arrival. McCasland would return as an assistant under Drew from 2011-16.
“Coach McCasland helped make Foster Pavilion possible with all his hard work and what he’s helped contribute to Baylor basketball,” Drew said of his former assistant after the game. “Never easy playing family.”
McCasland shed some light on his relationship with his old boss.
“I just love him. I really do. I respect him,” McCasland said. “Coach Drew’s just one of those guys that called me, and he’s like ‘Hey, you want to spend the night at my house?’ I’m like, ‘No, Coach, I don’t want to do that.’ It just shows you what he cares about.” McCasland and some of his players had been under the weather, and Drew wanted to reach out to make sure his friend had whatever he needed to feel well.
Of the relationship amongst Drew and his former assistants, McCasland said, “Coach (Drew) is the guy who holds all this together. That’s the truth. He’s always putting us in group texts, and if you don’t respond, you feel bad about it.”
What Drew certainly won’t feel bad about is tonight’s win. While Tech was able to tighten up the score in the final couple of minutes, the Bears showed against one of the Big 12’s better teams so far this season that they can compete on both ends. The Red Raiders have been the Big 12’s most efficient offense since conference play began, thanks to the talent of Pop Isaacs (11 points, 4-12 FG, 5 assists) and Joe Toussaint (18 points, 6 assists, 5 fouls). Those two had to fight for everything they got tonight. Toussaint, especially, battled his way into the midrange but was warded from the paint by Baylor’s bigs.
“They’re just really mobile,” he said of Missi and Josh Ojianwuna after the game.” Credit to them for being mobile.”
Toussaint was the engine of Tech’s final comeback attempt, which fell short when he was called for a charge trying to run through Nunn in transition.
The country’s best conference doesn’t let up for the Bears anytime soon. On Saturday evening they will be in Lawrence, Kansas to face the Kansas Jayhawks, who just last Saturday ran over perhaps the country’s best team in the Houston Cougars. Baylor has only won in Allen Field House once, back in 2020 when the pandemic cut short what was building into a title-worthy season for the Bears. If Baylor can pull out a victory Saturday, they’ll have notched a massive win in their belts as they compete for the program’s third Big 12 championship in 4 years.