Texas Tech-Baylor Preview
Baylor's season was taking a serious hit with a five-game span of questionable defense, but its latest victory showed promise.
Much of Texas Tech's Big 12 slate has been marred by an inability to score, though it overcame that earlier this week to finally beat a ranked opponent.
The Red Raiders will put that to the test once more seeking an elusive road win against the Top 25, though the 21st-ranked Bears are after their fifth straight win in the series with their No. 2 scorer and top rebounder likely to return.
Baylor (18-6, 7-4) ended a two-game skid with Wednesday's 82-72 win at Kansas State, limiting the Wildcats to 39.1 percent shooting after the opposition had a combined 51.9 mark over a 2-3 span, including 46.7 from 3-point range.
“People were locked in, focused, and it took all that to beat Kansas State. They're tremendous,” coach Scott Drew said. “We didn't have to motivate our guys at all coming off two losses.”
Taurean Prince led the way with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting following a three-game stretch during which Baylor's top scorer was limited to 13.7 on 32.5 percent.
Despite the two losses, the Bears enter the weekend a game off the conference pace in a five-team cluster.
“We did not expect to lose the last two games that we did lose,” Prince said. “We are back, we have been comfortable. It is about getting those wins, and people underestimate how tough the Big 12 is.”
They figure to get a boost Saturday with Rico Gathers expected to play. The senior, who averages 12.7 points and 10.3 rebounds, missed the Kansas State game due to illness. The Bears hold a plus-8.7 rebounding differential for the season, but they conceded a minus-10 to the Wildcats without him.
Baylor has won the last four meetings at home and overall, though the last three have been by a combined 11 points, including a 63-60 road win over the Red Raiders (14-9, 4-7) on Jan. 16.
Texas Tech's schedule has been littered by teams with a number next to their names, and it finally has a win to show for the trouble. Wednesday's 85-82 home win over No. 14 Iowa State was the Red Raiders' first in seven tries this season against the Top 25.
“We were fortunate to get the win,” coach Tubby Smith told the school's official website. “I love the way our guys competed, especially down the stretch with the way we defended and the way we got stops. A lot of touch plays throughout the game. I'm excited for our kids and certainly we needed a win like this.”
It ended a 13-game skid against ranked teams since last season's win over the same foe on Jan. 24, 2015, but they have to go back 36 games to a 2007-08 win over Gonzaga for their most recent win against a Top 25 opponent in a road or neutral environment.
Duplicating some efficient offense could help snap that 35-game skid. The Red Raiders shot 46.8 percent against the Cyclones, but that followed a 2-8 span over which they'd averaged 66.7 points and shot 40.5 percent.
They also hit 10 3s for the first time this season and are shooting 39.0 percent from deep over three games after making 30.9 in their first 20.
Aaron Ross has provided them with another outlet lately, scoring 20 points off the bench against Iowa State to bump his scoring average in the past four games to 16.8 after managing 8.1 through 19 games.