With the showdown between No. 6 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas looming Saturday at the Ferrell Center, the Bears hope to first take care of business against Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Monday in Lubbock.
It won’t be easy.
The Bears squeaked out a 65-61 win over the Red Raiders on Jan. 25 at the Ferrell Center. Playing the Red Raiders at United Sprint Arena is always tough. Just ask Kansas which slipped out with a 90-89 win on Saturday when Josh Jackson hit a last second free throw.
“We know that Coach (Chris) Beard has done a great job and they’ve been very successful all year,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Their numbers are tremendous. We squeaked one out here at home, and last year they thumped us at home and we had a buzzer beater down there. So it will be another Big 12 game. If we play really hard and really well, we’ll have a chance down the stretch.”
Following its 70-52 win over TCU on Saturday at the Ferrell Center, Baylor improved to 22-3 overall and 9-3 in the Big 12. The Bears stand one game behind the Jayhawks, who host West Virginia on Monday night.
After a series of down to the wire finishes, the 18-point blowout of TCU was rare in Big 12 play. Johnathan Motley enjoyed a monster game with 25 points and seven rebounds while Manu Lecomte hit 17 and King McClure scored 13 in his second straight start in place of suspended guard Al Freeman.
The Bears shot 53.6 percent, dominated the boards 36-26, and limited the Horned Frogs to a 37.7 field goal percentage.
“Their defense did cause us some problems, and Coach (Jamie) Dixon is a great coach,” Drew said. “He changes stuff up on you. We were able to find a couple shooters and then get going. Mot was tremendous. He’s had some good games, but when you shoot 12 for 15, those are special. And he was really effective. It was fun to watch him.”
With their loss to Kansas, the Red Raiders fell to 16-9 overall and 4-8 in the Big 12. A win over the Bears would give Texas Tech a big boost in its quest to reach the NCAA tournament.
Three Texas Tech players had particularly big offensive performances against Kansas as Keenan Evans scored 25 points, Niem Stevenson scored 22 and Zach Smith hit 21. But the Red Raiders couldn’t stop Jackson, the Jayhawks’ freshman phenom who hit 12 of 15 shots and finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bears held Evans, Stevenson and Smith to a combined 10 of 31 field goals in the first game, but the Red Raiders still came close to winning as it limited Baylor to a season-low 35.4 shooting percentage.
The Bears have gone 4-2 in Big 12 road games, losing to only West Virginia and Kansas.
“Tech is a very physical team that shoots the 3-ball well,” said Motley who scored 25 points in the first game against the Red Raiders. “We take the same intensity playing at home on the road. We know playing on the road in the Big 12 is tough, but you’ve got to go in thinking you can take a win from the jump.”
This will be Baylor’s first Big Monday game in the Big 12, and the players know how hard it is to prepare so quickly for the Red Raiders on the road after playing TCU on Saturday.
“It’s hard but we have a good strength coach (Charlie Melton),” Drew said. “Our guys are in good condition. So hopefully they get the rest and nutrition they need. Lubbock, like every place in the Big 12, is a very tough place to play. So we’ve got to be ready to go.”