The undefeated No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 Texas will face each other in another bout for the first time this season in the round robin of the Big 12 Conference on Tuesday in Austin, Texas.
This one won’t be for the faint of heart. Expect a fight to the end between two of the toughest and deepest teams in the nation in a battle for Big 12 positioning and NCAA seeding.
The Bears (16-0, 8-0 Big 12) head south to Austin after an 84-72 home win over Auburn on Saturday in a Big 12 / SEC Challenge competition. Texas (11-3, 5-2) was scheduled to play in Kentucky on Saturday, but that game has been postponed due to the limited availability of players in the Wildcats program due to COVID-19.
Baylor got a huge boost from his bench in beating Auburn. Reserve Adam Flagler hit a season high of 19 points and second team player Matthew Mayer added 13 points in 15 minutes of play.
“It’s all about toughness and just a need,” said Flagler. “We just decided to get involved and box as a team and that only gave us a bigger lead.”
The Bears received 16 points from Jared Butler, 15 from MaCio Teague and 11 rebounds from Flo Thamba in victory. Baylor led at half time by just five points before turning the volume to maximum in the second half.
“In the second half we started to take a few shots, put more pressure on and get out in the transition. Things were just smoother than at the beginning,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Auburn did such a good job when it came down and smashed the glass – it was hard for us to really get into a rhythm.”
The Bears have only stepped deeper into a non-defeat season once when they started the 2011-12 season with 17 straight wins. Baylor has captured its last 18 non-conference games in total, a lack of the school record that was also set in the 2011/12 season.
Texas appears to be recovering from its second loss in three games. The most recent setback was an 80:79 home loss to then No. 24 Oklahoma on January 26th.
Kai Jones approached Texas with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the game in Oklahoma. Greg Brown III scored 14, Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman III each scored 13 points, and Donovan Williams added a season high 11 for the Longhorns, which had three players fouled in loss.
“I try to be level headed,” said Kai Jones. “I feel like we are making pretty good decisions as a team.”
Texas’s three defeats this season were all for ranked teams and a total of seven points at home.
The Kentucky Longhorns’ cancellation of the game could actually help them in the long run as, due to COVID-19 protocols and with no coach Shaka Smart, who was supposed to make the trip minus two of its starters, Courtney Ramey and Jericho Sims, was due to start on Jan. January tested positive.
Those two players, as well as key reserve Brock Cunningham (who missed the Longhorns’ last two games in quarantine) should be back for the competition on Tuesday.
Andrew Jones said Smart’s message to the team was consistent throughout the season.
“He’s telling us, ‘Don’t get brand new. Keep playing our brand of basketball no matter who’s on the court to try to win anyway,'” said Jones.
– Field level media