Baylor started the second half strong with a 10-2 run after trailing at halftime for the first time all season. On defense they adjusted to TCU’s back cutting that hurt them several times early in the game, and they continued to force their was to the rim where the Horned Frogs are soft. The heroics of Jared Butler paced the Baylor Bears to a 67-49 win over their rival TCU Horned Frogs.
Butler showed why he was a pre-season All American and Big XII player of the year. His 28 points on only 17 shots, plus 8 rebounds and 5 steals. He was also the only Bear to shoot at his normal level from three, draining 4-8 threes, all of his makes coming in the second half.
While Butler was the only true bright spot on offense, the team dominated the game defensively. TCU scored fewer than .78 points per possession and shot only 33% for the game. TCU’s lone offensive bright spot was the free throw line, where they were 13-18. Otherwise, the Bears swarmed everywhere, switching and recovering with alacrity.
Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua delivered his usual energy, and Mark Vital actually led the team in free throw shooting, going 5-6 from the line and tallying an important 9 points in the flow of the game.
The first half ended with a bang for the Horned Frogs. Until Mike Miles sunk a 60-foot heave, the Horned Frogs had gone seven minutes without a field goal. Thanks to that prayer of a shot and successful free throw shooting, the Horned Frogs managed to be the first team to take a lead into halftime against Baylor this season 28-27.
Baylor’s offense continued the struggles it had against Iowa State last Saturday when its outside shot abandoned it. The Bears were 1-10 from three. Butler was the lone offensive bright spot. He was getting into the paint at will, slithering past multiple defenders to finish at the rim. Without his 6-6 shooting from inside the arc, Baylor would have been down by much more than 1 at halftime.
Excepting porous defense on drives, TCU did a lot to win at the margins in the first half. The Horned Frogs won the rebounding battles 21-12, went 10-13 from the free throw line, and held Baylor to 1 made three. While Baylor seemed to have the energy it needed early, TCU matched it step for step.
A 7-0 run in just over a minute pushed Baylor’s lead to 10 about 8 minutes into the second half. The lead would never fall below double-digits for the rest of the game. That run included a Butler three and a breakaway dunk by MaCio Teague. Baylor is the only team in the country to be top 10 in offense and defense by KenPom. That showed on both ends of the floor today. There were long stretches of the game where Baylor denied TCU everything and found the seems and open pockets in TCU’s defense. The regular 8-0 or 12-5 runs created space for the long stretches when the outside shots weren’t falling.
Entering the game, Baylor appeared equipped to take advantage of TCU’s weaknesses. The Horned Frogs are not an aggressive defense. They force very few steals or turnovers. TCU also allows a large number of points inside the arc while fouling very little. Baylor’s guards are adept at finding creases in the defense, and that’s just what happened this afternoon. The Bears scored 36 of their 67 points inside, taking advantage of TCU’s aggressive closeouts and back-pedaling big men. Those points came on 12-17 shooting on layups plus 4 huge dunks from Teague and Tchamwa-Tchatchoua.
Baylor’s next three games will come against ranked opponents as they host West Virginia on Tuesday, then hit the road to Lubbock before squaring off against Kansas in Waco. This will be Baylor’s toughest stretch of the season and an important opportunity to establish itself atop the Big XII. The Bears currently share the league’s top spot with Texas, who knocked off West Virginia in a Morgantown thriller today. Baylor is clearly the best team in the conference, but there are no lack of challengers for the Big XII title.