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The Shootaround: It's Gut Check Time

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The Bears look to bounce back from Saturday's loss but have a brutal 3 week stretch to end the regular season

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Week In Review

#21 Baylor 82 Kansas State 72
82
BAYLOR
(18-6, 7-4)
1ST 2ND F
43 39 82
32 40 72

Box ScoreQuotesNotesUSATSI Gallery Photo Gallery | Postgame

Manhattan, Kansas • Attendance: 11,636

72
KANSAS STATE
(14-10, 3-8)

The Bears began the week with a huge road win against a Kansas State team that was coming off of a win over #1 Oklahoma. Baylor was without Rico Gathers in this game but several guys stepped up in a big way offensively to carry the load in the 82-72 victory. Scott Drew's squad has had a tendency to come out of the gates slowly but Baylor jumped out to a quick 25-11 lead and never trailed. The Wildcats certainly made a few runs to get close, but the Bears had the answer each and every time. Al Freeman had his best game since conference play began with 21 points on 6-7 shooting and Taurean Prince added 18 on 6-8 shooting. So from your two leading scorers, that’s 39 points on 15 shot attempts. That’s some serious offensive efficiency right there. Lester Medford had a nice floor game as well with 13 points and 9 assists to just 3 turnovers. As a team, Baylor shot 49% and hit 7 of 13 from behind the 3 point arc. But the stat that jumps off the page is that Baylor was 29-30 as a team from the free throw line. Twenty nine of thirty!!! According to ESPN’s stat gurus, this is the highest percentage that any Division I team has shot in a game this season with at least 30 attempts. The Bears probably knew they were going to have to shoot the ball well to win this game on the road without Gathers and they did just that. K-State was able to dominate the boards with Baylor being undermanned and Johnathan Motley and Terry Maston both getting into foul trouble. But the Bears were able to hold K-State to just 39% shooting and the Wildcats did not hit a 3 pointer until the final minute when the game was basically no longer in doubt. This was a big gut check win on the road for a team coming off of two losses the week before. And even though K-State is likely not an NCAA Tournament team this season, the Octagon of Doom is always a tough place to grab a road win.

Texas Tech 84 #21 Baylor 66
84
TEXAS TECH
(15-9, 5-7)
1ST 2ND F
33 51 84
32 34 66

Box ScoreQuotesNotesUSATSI Photo Gallery

Waco, Texas • Attendance: 7,540

66
BAYLOR
(18-7, 7-5)

Woof. Where to begin with this one? Baylor followed up one of its best performances of the season with a complete stinker, allowing Texas Tech to take complete control in the 2nd half and pull away rather easily 84-66. The Bears came out flat in this game and even though Baylor put together a mid-1st half run to take a 20-16 lead, it just never felt as if they could get consistent stops defensively. The Red Raiders took a 1 point lead to the halftime locker room but the 2nd half was downright nightmare fuel for Baylor. Baylor allowed Texas Tech to shoot 67% in the last 20 minutes and 57% from 3. Combine that with 7 turnovers early in the half and you have a recipe for disaster. I fully expected the Bears to at least make a run in the latter stages of the game to make it interesting but Tech was too locked in at that point and Baylor never got any closer than 11. Once BU finally settled in defensively, Tech was regularly running the shot clock all the way down and then hitting a tough contested jump shot. Those are the kinds of plays that take the will out of a team and eventually, Baylor cracked and lost its composure at the end. Scott Drew picked up a rare technical foul arguing a foul call against Ish Wainright and then Rico Gathers was ejected after committing a pretty vicious flagrant foul against Texas Tech’s Justin Gray. This loss leaves Baylor at 7-5 in the Big 12 and leaves fans to wonder just what the heck we’re supposed to expect from this team on a game to game basis. I will point out that pkct_chng did a write up on this game that was probably a lot less emotional and a lot smarter than what I just wrote so I’d recommend you read that too.

Looking Ahead

#13 Iowa State @ #25 Baylor
Ferrell Center (Waco, TX)
Feb. 16, 8:00 PM CT
ESPN2

I’m just going to step right up and state my opinion here: I think this is the biggest game of Baylor’s season to date as the Bears host Iowa State on Tuesday night. Baylor has now lost 3 consecutive Big 12 home games, a mark that just does not allow for success in this conference. It’s important that the Bears get back on the right track in their own arena. Unfortunately, the 3 remaining home games are all against top 20 opponents, starting with this game. And Iowa State will be out for blood. If you remember, Baylor’s best win of the season came back on January 9 in Ames as they knocked off the Cyclones 94-89 behind a monster performance from Motley, Medford and Prince. Baylor’s defensive struggles will get put to the test in this game as Iowa State is a team that can spread the court and have 5 guys on the court all capable of hitting shots from the outside. With the gruesome performance against Texas Tech on Saturday, Baylor is now allowing 41.9% from 3PT in conference play, a number that is entirely too high. Iowa State hit just 10-29 from 3 in the first meeting. A similar percentage could yield a good result for Baylor. Another big key will be the turnover bug. Taking care of the ball has been a big issue in a majority of Baylor’s losses this season. On Saturday night, the problem resided more with the inside guys than it did with the guards. Consistently taking good shots will be essential against an Iowa State team that is 4th in KenPom offensive efficiency. And if you have the capability to do so, GET TO THIS GAME. A loud and engaged crowd can make the difference between winning and losing a key conference game.

#25 Baylor @ #24 Texas
Frank Erwin Center (Austin, TX)
Feb. 20, 1:00 PM CT
ESPN

Baylor and Texas renew acquaintances on Saturday in Austin as the Bears look to avenge a home loss to UT at the beginning of the month. As we saw in that game on February 1, the Longhorns have been playing much better basketball over the last 10 games. This has been led by the emergence of seniors Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert, who both had big games against Baylor in Waco. The Horns have also taken hold of new coach Shaka Smart’s "havoc" defensive approach that he brought over from VCU. UT lost both of its games last week, but a majority of teams will lose back to back games in Norman and Ames so no shame to be had there. Although it is not widely regarded as one of the tougher places to play in the Big 12, Texas is one of two teams in the league that has not lost a home game in conference play (the other is Kansas because Kansas). Baylor has honestly been a better road team than home team within the Big 12 but this will be a tough chore to get a win in Austin. The Bears will need to be smarter when attacking the basket, not always taking the ball right at Ibeh, who has turned into a tremendous shot blocker. Ball movement will be a major key to Baylor’s success. On the defensive end, Rico Gathers got beat several times in the first meeting by Ibeh just from allowing him to establish post position too close to the basket. Rico needs to be ready to work down low and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Bears throw some traps when UT goes down low as the Horns’ big men seemed to panic a bit when Baylor did that in the last game. As bad as Baylor has been at defending the 3, I’d rather take my chances with having Texas rely on the outside shot (33.5% 3PT as a team) than consistently giving them dunks and layups.

Big 12 Update

Death, taxes, and Kansas in first place...

Standings

CONFERENCE OVERALL
W-L GB PCT W-L PCT STRK
#2 Kansas 9-3 -- 0.750 21-4 0.840 W5
#10 West Virginia 9-3 -- 0.750 20-5 0.800 W1
#3 Oklahoma 8-4 1 0.667 20-4 0.833 L1
#24 Texas 7-5 2 0.583 16-9 0.640 L2
#25 Baylor 7-5 2 0.583 18-7 0.720 L1
#13 Iowa State 7-5 2 0.583 18-7 0.720 W1
Texas Tech 5-7 4 0.417 15-9 0.625 W2
Kansas State 3-9 6 0.250 14-11 0.560 L2
Oklahoma State 3-9 6 0.250 12-13 0.480 W1
TCU 2-10 7 0.167 11-14 0.440 L1

Big 12 Tournament

If the tournament were to start today, here's what the field would look like:

AP Top 25

Baylor barely hangs on in the top 25 this week, falling from 21 to 25 after the loss to Tech. I was surprised that the Bears were included in the poll but there were a TON of other ranked teams that lost last week so it makes sense. Oh and being 25th in the country puts you in the bottom half of the Big 12 because Baylor is the 6th of 6 Big 12 teams in this week's poll.

RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Villanova (44) 22-3 1,601
2 Kansas (21) 21-4 1,578
3 Oklahoma 20-4 1,471
4 Iowa 20-5 1,349
5 North Carolina 21-4 1,343
6 Maryland 22-4 1,248
7 Virginia 20-5 1,188
8 Xavier 22-3 1,174
8 Michigan State 21-5 1,174
10 West Virginia 20-5 1,094
11 Miami (FL) 20-4 1,036
12 Arizona 21-5 823
13 Iowa State 18-7 742
14 Kentucky 19-6 692
15 Dayton 21-3 681
16 Oregon 20-6 529
17 Purdue 20-6 497
18 Louisville 19-6 494
19 Notre Dame 18-7 489
20 Duke 19-6 462
21 SMU 21-3 441
22 Indiana 20-6 232
23 Providence 19-7 125
24 Texas 16-9 123
25 Baylor 18-7 97
Others receiving votes: Texas A&M 90, Utah 75, Saint Joseph's 57, Wisconsin 47, South Carolina 39, USC 38, Michigan 17, Syracuse 17, Wichita State 14, Stony Brook 13, Monmouth 10, California 8, Hawaii 5, UNC Wilmington 4, San Diego State 3, Yale 3, Cincinnati 2
Dropped from rankings: Texas A&M 15, USC 23, Wichita State 25