When Baylor played Texas at the Ferrell Center, Johnathan Motley delivered the game of his life with a career-high 32 points and 20 rebounds in a 74-64 win.
Performances like that have made Motley one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith national player of the year.
The No. 11 Bears would like to see a repeat of Motley’s Jan. 17 heroics when they face the Longhorns at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Erwin Center in Austin in the final regular season game of the year.
“When they talk about being in the zone, I think it’s fair to say he was in the zone last time,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “The second half especially he really got on a roll. His teammates did a great job getting him the ball and encouraging him to keep being aggressive and putting him in positions to do that.”
The Bears (24-6, 11-6) will earn the third seed in next week’s Big 12 tournament with a win over the Longhorns (10-20, 4-13). A loss would make Baylor the fourth seed against No. 5 Oklahoma State on Thursday in Kansas City.
After sitting out of Baylor’s 71-62 win over No. 10 West Virginia with a sprained ankle, point guard Manu Lecomte’s status for Saturday will be a game-time decision.
“The big thing is we need him 100 percent for the NCAA tournament and hopefully the Big 12 tournament,” Drew said. “If we jeopardize that then we wouldn’t play him. If he’s able to go and he’s stable and it’s not going to hurt him, then definitely we’d love to have him.”
Without Lecomte, the Bears got solid performances from guards Jake Lindsey, King McClure, Wendell Mitchell and Al Freeman against West Virginia. After hitting five 3-point attempts in a 71-68 loss to Iowa State last weekend, Freeman nailed three of five treys against the Mountaineers.
But Motley was the star with 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
“Sometimes we have to tell him to shoot the ball, because he’ll get in there, and because he’s such a good passer, he’ll pass the ball,” Lindsey said. “And we’ll tell him, hey, go dunk the ball. Last game, he went and dunked the ball a lot. And having a guy like that who approaches the game that way, it’s a valuable asset.”
The Longhorns have been the Big 12’s most disappointing team as they come into the weekend tied for last with Oklahoma following a six-game losing streak.
But the Bears aren’t taking this game for granted. Texas hasn’t won a Big 12 road game but has gone 4-4 at the Erwin Center in conference play. Home losses to TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State have been by three points or less.
“They’re extremely tough to beat at home,” Drew said. “They shoot at a higher percentage and get to the free throw line more and push it faster. We know how hard it is to win on the road in the Big 12 and we know what we’ve got to do to put ourselves in position to possibly have that chance.”
The Longhorns feature one of the youngest teams in the Big 12. Their top two scorers are both freshmen as 6-11 forward Jarrett Allen is averaging 13.4 points and guard Andrew Jones is averaging 11.2 points. Sophomore guard Kerwin Roach is Texas’ third-leading scorer with a 10.1 average.
“When you say they don’t have the horses, you look at (NBA) mock drafts and they’ve got guys in the first round,” Drew said. “They have a lot of talent and everybody knows that. They’re just more youthful. Most coaches would tell you with youth comes more ups and downs and inconsistencies. But they definitely have talent where they can put it together.”
In the first game against Baylor, Texas pounded the ball inside as Allen scored 17 points, Jones contributed 15 and Shaquille Cleare hit 14.
“Last game we played against them, they did what they had to,” said Baylor guard Ish Wainright. “They’re much wider than us, so they pounded the ball inside. And our goal is to keep the ball out of the middle, out of the paint, and just put more ball pressure on the guards so they can’t get it to the posts.”
BEAR FACTS – Baylor coach Scott Drew is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith college coach of the year. The other semifinalists include Kansas’ Bill Self, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, SMU’s Tim Jankovich, Arizona’s Sean Miller, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Florida’s Mark White and Villanova’s Jay Wright.