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9 Baylor Bears vs Sam Houston State Preview and Game Thread

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The Bears are back home from the Bahamas to face the Bearkats

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis Championship-Baylor vs Louisville Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
vs.
No. 9/11 Baylor (6-0) vs. Sam Houston State (4-2)
Nov. 30, 2016 | 8:05 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | Ferrell Center (10,284)

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After an impressive showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis vaulted Baylor from unranked to no. 9 in the AP Poll this week, the Bears have one game to play before facing off against no. 7 Xavier on Saturday. Let’s hope tonight’s game against Sam Houston State is still on the players’ radars.

The Bearkats, on paper, shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Bears in Waco, although if history can tell us anything, it’s that Baylor can make things difficult for themselves facing less talented teams at home. SHS ranks in at 144 on KenPom. Of their two games against top 100 quality opponents (after accounting for home court), the Bearkats lost by 21 to Ohio and by 8 at Georgia Tech. Baylor is, obviously, a much better team than either of those programs. In fact, Baylor will be the toughest game on Sam Houston’s schedule all year.

Sam Houston is led by sophomore guard John Dewey III, averaging 13 pts and 4 ast on 59% shooting from the floor. He’s not a threat from distance - Dewey has only attempted 12 three-point shots in 6 games - but he is an efficient scorer and the team’s floor general. Dewey does, however, have a propensity for turnovers. If Baylor’s guards turn up the heat with ball pressure man defense, it might spell doom for Sam Houston’s offense.

Dakarai Henderson is the team’s second leading scorer and its only threat from beyond the arc, where he is averaging 36% on the season.

Tori Butler is the other name to watch out for. At 6-6, he’s the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 8 boards along with 9.5 pts per game. Butler ranks 5th in KenPom’s defensive rebounding percentage, making him one of the best cleanup rebounders in the country.

Of course, Butler hasn’t really had that many rebounds to make this season. Opponents have managed a fairly high effective field goal percentage against the Bearkats thus far at 52% (eFG% adjusts normal FG% by accounting for the extra point generated by a three-point make). To add to the trouble, Sam Houston is almost at the bottom of the country in opponent FT rate (which is simply FT attempts per FG attempts). Teams are attempting free throws at a ludicrously high rate of 53.6%, taking more than 1 free throw per every 2 field goal attempts. Essentially, Sam Houston is fouling every other defensive possession. Baylor can and almost certainly will take advantage of that as a top 40 team by FT%. Baylor’s bigs, especially Johnathan Motley, should enjoy lots of time at the stripe when they work inside, and the guards, as long as they take care of the ball against pressure, should be able to drive for contact and draw plenty of penalties quickly.

Stylistically, this game will be of two modes. Baylor has remained one of the slowest tempo teams in the country and will be facing a team that is top 20 currently in pace. Sam Houston plays fast and loose, part of why they have such high turnover and foul rates. The Bears have the talent and athleticism to run if they want, but likely Baylor will try to put a stranglehold on the pace of the game and keep Sam Houston from finding their rhythm by running up and down the floor.

And so, Baylor Bears, do your best to get out to the Ferrell Center tonight and cheer on your top 10 basketball team! Men’s and women’s basketball is the high point of Baylor athletics at the moment, so be sure to let the teams know you appreciate them by showing up, cheering, and sticking around. They’ll love it, and you will, too.

Sic’em!