By Chris Derrett
When Baylor and Texas tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday, head coach Scott Drew will watch from the bench knowing the importance of the game on several levels.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a bigger regular season college game in Baylor’s school history,” Drew said. “[ESPN’s] College GameDay is as big as it gets. It’s obviously a much-needed game for us win-wise.”
GameDay, ESPN’s weekly college basketball show, selected Baylor as the eighth and final location of 2011 to shoot its live Saturday morning program. In addition to Baylor earning national exposure via the 9 a.m. through 11 a.m. show, the game will weigh heavily on the team’s postseason prospects.
Saturday is the Bears’ last regular season opportunity to make their case for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. A loss will force them to either win the Big 12 tournament next week or qualify for the championship game to gain a reasonable chance at getting a bid.
“We know we have to get this win to have any hopes at making the dance,” freshman Perry Jones III said.
The Bears return to the court after a 71-60 loss at Oklahoma State on Wednesday in which senior LaceDarius Dunn struggled to a career-low 2 of 16 shooting performance. Dunn began Wednesday needing 12 points to break the all-time Big 12 scoring record; he got just seven against the Cowboys.
On Thursday a McLennan County grand jury declined to indict Dunn on assault charges stemming from a Sept. 27 incident that left LaCharlesla Edwards with a broken jaw. With the case behind him, Dunn said he thanks God and is focused on helping the Bears gain an essential win Saturday.
“Through the whole thing I just prayed about it,” Dunn said. “All I had to do was sit back and focus on basketball and school, the things that I need to be focused on instead of all the crazy things. It was great news; I have it behind me. All I can do now is move forward.”
For Baylor, moving forward as a team will mean finding a way to repeat the success it found against Texas in the second half of the teams’ Feb. 12 meeting. The Longhorns won, 69-60, despite a late charge that allowed the Bears to outscore the Longhorns by seven points in the final 20 mintues. In the second half, Drew switched the Bears’ defense from zone to man-to-man, and the result was Texas shooting 6 of 22 from the field.
“Defensively we did a lot better second half. When we were able to get some stops, we were able to get out and get some easy buckets,” Drew said. “Offensively we did a better job attacking the basket rather than settling for jumpers.”
While Drew and the team works on winning, they hope fans show up with just as much energy and effort Saturday. Having College GameDay on campus is a rare opportunity, one any given school might receive only once in many years.
People in attendance will also help the Bear Pit, as State Farm will donate one dollar to the organization for every fan who attends the 9 a.m. College GameDay broadcast Saturday.
But when the Bears finally take the floor after the day of festivities, it will be all business.
“Just come in ready to play,” Jones III said. “Don’t come in thinking about GameDay. Don’t think about distractions or people in the stands. Just think about us playing on the floor and us being brothers.”