By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears head to Fort Worth to take on the Texas Christian Horned Frogs on Saturday.
Baylor and TCU are two basketball teams heading in two separate directions. TCU is winless in conference play and Baylor is 4-1 and coming off a victory against Oklahoma State on ESPN’s Big Monday showcase.
“I think the great thing about crowds and the Big 12 is every game you are excited,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “This is an in-state school. I know Baylor and TCU have a lot of tradition. A lot of fans really get excited for any in-state rivalries like this and our players are no exception. They get excited about it. A lot of them get the chance to play in front of family and friends in the Metroplex, so everyone’s excited.”
TCU plays a deliberate style of basketball. They try to control the pace of the game and dictate the tempo of the action.
“That’s the great thing in the Big 12. Every game is a challenge,” Drew said. “TCU is one of those teams who really plays at a slower pace than most of the teams you face and it all starts with them on the defensive end. They are tremendous at holding opponents to under their averages. They’ve done a good job in turning the other team over as well.”
The Bears have already defeated the Horned Frogs earlier in the season 51-40.
This will be the last time these two teams meet for the season, unless their paths should cross in the Big 12 tournament.
In that first meeting, TCU disrupted Baylor’s style of basketball and held a 22-21 lead at the end of the first half. But Baylor made the necessary adjustments in the second half to run away with a comfortable victory.
“We tried to run last time against them too, but when they got the ball, usually they can dictate when you can run and when you cannot,” Drew said. “We’ll have to pressure them a little bit more than last time and pick them up a little higher in our half-court pressure. They are a team where a lot of teams try to do that and at the end of the day they normally get the kind of pace they want. Early in the game we had a chance to get some margin and we didn’t finish on our fast break opportunities. Second of all, when we do get the ball in the half court, we have to make sure that we are smart and get the shot that we want versus playing 70 seconds of defense.”
Even though the Horned Frogs are 0-6 in the Big 12, the Bears are not taking the skill or resume of their next opponent for granted.
“I didn’t even know they were 0-6, but in this conference anyone can beat anybody on any given night,” junior guard Brady Heslip said. “We are going to prepare for them the same way we did the first time and just go in there and try to execute the game plan. It’s one of the best conferences from top to bottom, so we’re ready for every game.”
Despite struggling on offense early in the nonconference portion of the schedule, the Bears have found their stride defensively and are buying into the philosophies of the coaching staff.
“We come in every day for every practice knowing exactly what we have to do defensively,” junior forward Cory Jefferson said. “We’re buying into it, the guards, the bigs, the coaches and everybody that has anything to do with Baylor basketball.
Even though he’s known mostly as a perimeter scorer, Heslip agrees that it’s all about defense with Baylor basketball.
“I’m buying into whatever the coaches are doing,” Heslip said. “That’s why I came here. All the years that I’ve been here, it’s been about defense. That’s how you win games. This year specifically, we’ve been pretty good defensively about holding people to a pretty low amount of points.”
Senior guard A.J. Walton assumes a leadership role on the team. He knows there are still aspects of the game that the team needs to improve upon, like bringing consistent mental focus for every second of every game.
“It’s getting there,” Walton said. “We could do a little better. We don’t tend to stay focused for 40 minutes of the game. It’s coming along. We just have to keep working. It’s my job to lead us in that aspect and I’m going to keep pushing these fellas.”