By Shehan Jeyarajah
Since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Baylor has been the most dominant basketball power in the state of Texas. In that span, the Bears have posted a record of 19-1 against teams from the state of Texas. No. 12 Baylor (13-2, 1-1) will put it all on the line as they travel to Lubbock to play in-state conference rival Texas Tech (8-8, 0-3) on Wednesday night.
The Bears are winners of seven of their last eight and 18 of their last 20 dating back to the National Invitational Title last season. The only two losses in that span have come to No. 8 Syracuse on a neutral site and No. 9 Iowa State on the road.
“There’s a rumor out there that we can’t play on the road,” senior guard Gary Franklin said. “We want to go out here against Texas Tech and crush that. We’ve played well away, even if not true road games.”
The Bears are coming off of an 88-62 throttling of TCU in Waco. Sophomore forward Taurean Prince finished with 23 points on 8-for-10 shooting and three steals. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin added 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
Senior power forward Cory Jefferson leads the Bears in scoring at 13.5 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game. Senior guard Brady Heslip averages 11.5 points per game on 49.4 percent from the three point line. All-around wing Royce O’Neale averages 6.1 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, 58.0 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from three.
The Bears have received a huge bump in bench production from last season. Sophomore forward Rico Gathers is averaging 7.7 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game in 18.9 minutes per game. Over the last four games, Prince has scored 15.8 points per game on a super-efficient 63.6 percent from the field off the bench.
“You have players on your bench you can go to at any point,” Prince said. “You have to rely on your bench along with their starters. If everyone does their job, we can win this game. I just come off the bench and look for what’s there. You never want to be a detriment.”
“What makes Big 12 venues so tough is first of all the crowds,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Our goal on the road is to not give the fans anything to cheer about and that starts with transition defense and taking care of the ball.”
Texas Tech is a team in transition after former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith took over as head coach this season. After a tumultuous 2013 season, the Red Raiders have started 0-3 in Big 12 play with losses to No. 13 Iowa State and West Virginia in overtime.
Tech is coming off of a close 67-64 loss to Texas in Austin. The Red Raiders led 64-63 with 31 seconds left, but missed two shots in the final 16 seconds and a turnover allowed Texas to win. Junior guard Robert Turner finished with 19 points in the loss.
Senior forward Jaye Crockett leads the Red Raiders in scoring at 14.4 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 57.9 percent from the field. Tech is shooting 47.4 percent from the field as a team and hold opponents to 43.4 percent.
“In the Big 12, you can’t take any games for granted,” Franklin said. “We have to come in with the mentality that this is a top 10 team.”
No. 12 Baylor will travel to the United Spirit Arena to play Texas Tech at 8 p.m. in Lubbock on Wednesday night. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.