How does a team shoot 30% from the floor, 29% from deep, and still win by 15? They play Texas, a team that looks moribund offensively in what increasingly looks to be Shaka Smart’s final season in Austin. Texas was 18-51 from the floor (35%), 3-15 from three (20%), and 5-15 from the line (30%). They forced Baylor into only 8 turnovers and allowed a massive 20 offensive rebounds. The mantra “win your clunkers” rarely applies to such cushy victories.
MaCio Teague (21 pts, 6 rebs, 1 stl) led all scorers by a wide margin. He was persistent all night going to the rim against mismatches and findings ways to get open for threes off screens. His shooting wasn’t particularly hot (5-16, 2-7 3pt), but he consistently got to the line and drained all 9 of his free throws. Teague has shown increasing confidence all season. He is an essential part of Baylor’s deadly four guard rotation.
Mark Vital (4 pts, 7 rebs, 2 blks, 2 stl) and Freddie Gillespie (5 pts, 12 rebs, 4 blks) were masterful defensively. Vital sparked the Ferrell Center crowd into a frenzy early with steal and huge flush at the start of the game. His energy on the boards and in the passing lanes helped keep the Longhorns at bay throughout the game until he rested the final 4 minutes of the game to nurse what appeared to be a nagging hip injury.
Gillespie showed tremendous defensive versatility against Texas. A key part of Baylor’s improved man to man defense has been its ability to switch positions one through five. Gillespie’s ability to move laterally and stay in front of an ostensibly faster guard like Matt Coleman III (9 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 4-10 FG) clogged Texas’s pick and roll offense and neutralized their best offensive player.
The Longhorns’ closest answer to Gillespie was Jericho Sims (13 pts, 15 rebs, 1 blk), who took advantage of any time he wasn’t defended by Gillespie. Tristan Clark (2 pts, 1-1 FG), still isn’t back to his previous lateral quickness and had difficultly defending Sims as the roll man and in space. Every other Bears defender was simply too short for the tall, athletic Texas big.
The game got sluggish in the second half. Baylor began the frame 1-11 from the floor, but Scott Drew’s squad managed to hold Texas at arm’s length. The Longhorns managed to pull within 6 points, but it took them a 6-minute Baylor cold streak to do so. A cool-headed jumper from Devonte Bandoo (4 pts, 4 rebs) and three free throws from Teague pushed the lead back to double-digits. The lead fluttered between 8 and 10 points before Baylor finally put the Horns away behind the combined efforts of Jared Butler (13 pts, 6 rebs), Matthew Mayer (7 pts, 2 ast, 1 stl), Gillespie, and Teague.
In the first half, Baylor dominated the energy of the game on both ends of the floor. Offensively, the ball moved around the floor until it found the open shooter or a guard with a crease to the basket. If the shot missed, Baylor rebounded half their misses. Vital alone came up with 4 offensive boards in the first half. Those 10 offensive rebounds gave them the extra shots they needed to overcome the relatively poor shooting from the floor. Baylor shot 13-33 (39.4%) in the first half despite going 5-13 (38.5%) from three. Several times Vital bullied a poor, straw-thin Texas defender from under the basket to get the ball coming off the rim.
The defensive energy matched the other end, something the man defense has done well all year. Baylor defenders were in passing lanes, both anticipating throws and denying the ball to cutters. The Longhorns weren’t even allows easy passes along the perimeter. Everything was disrupted. When Coleman couldn’t get to the basket in space, Texas’ offense sputtered in the half court.
Gillespie and Vital were especially brilliant on defense. Gillespie several times got switched out onto a smaller guard, and each time he was in the guard’s shirt, playing with enormous confidence and ability for a big man out by the three-point line. His ability to protect the rim, guard the perimeter, and rebound is a major factor in Baylor’s success as a screen-switching man defense. Vital’s steal and dunk to spark the start of the game was equally as essential, setting a strong tone for the rest of the night.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that a guy sank the full court putt for $5,000 in the Mattson challenge, one of the great moments in Ferrell Center history.
Baylor is now the winner of 10 straight games headed into a tough road game against Texas Tech Tuesday. The Red Raiders will be fresh off a slaughtering of a competent Oklahoma State team, 85-50. The Bears will need Vital in good health to have a chance at taking an 11 game win streak into Phog Allen next Saturday.