Baylor-Texas Preview

BY foxsports • March 9, 2016

There's a chance Texas may get back some muscle just in time to face one of college basketball's more imposing frontcourt players.

Cameron Ridley may play for the first time since December for the 23rd-ranked Longhorns as they meet No. 22 Baylor and Rico Gathers in Thursday's Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at Kansas City.

Texas (20-11) was dealt a major blow when the 6-foot-10 Ridley was lost following a 75-73 victory at Stanford on Dec. 19 to a broken foot. Ridley, a four-year starter, posted double-doubles in five of his 11 games this season.

The center has been cleared to return and coach Shaka Smart has indicated that Ridley could see action at some point in this event.

''I don't know definitively when he's going to be able to play,'' Smart said, ''but we're extremely hopeful and optimistic he'll be able to play soon. He's been cleared to do quite a few basketball-type activities.''

Ridley's presence would help against Gathers, who was second in the Big 12 with 9.1 rebounds per game for Baylor. The Bears (21-10) ranked second in the regular season in rebound margin at plus-8.2.

There's some history between these rivals after they split their regular-season matchups.

Gathers fouled out with 20 points and eight rebounds in a 67-59 home loss to Texas on Feb. 1, in a contest in which a Buffalo Bills scout was there to watch him play. A chippy second half included an incident in which Gathers fouled Longhorns center Prince Ibeh and then exchanged words with Texas star Isaiah Taylor. Gathers and Taylor received technical fouls.

Baylor gained revenge with a 78-64 road win on Feb. 20, in which Gathers did not start after missing two of three contests with an illness. The Bears outscored the Longhorns 50-32 in the paint, shot 62.7 percent and held a 29-22 rebounding advantage.

Johnathan Motley scored 24 points after he fouled out with five in the first meeting. Motley is a former high school teammate of Longhorns freshman reserve guard Kerwin Roach Jr.

Taylor has been hampered by foul trouble against Baylor, totaling 22 points on 15 shots and finishing with four fouls each time. He averages a team-high 15.0 points.

The Bears are losers of three of four after falling 69-58 to then-No. 10 West Virginia on Saturday. Gathers made his first start since Feb. 13 and fouled out with five points and three boards.

Baylor, on course for a fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in five years, is hoping this event will boost its chances next week.

''Everybody realizes you have a chance to improve your seed with each and every game,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said, ''because every game is a quality-win opportunity.''

The Longhorns have won three of four after Friday's 62-50 victory at Oklahoma State as they enter their first Big 12 tournament under Smart.

''You have in the Big 12 so many teams that have beaten up on each other over the past two-plus months,'' Smart said, ''and everyone will come together. You look at the bracket, some of the games that are going to be played early in the tournament are just phenomenal matchups.''

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