By Cody Soto
No. 20 Baylor men’s basketball returns home to the Ferrell Center as the No. 19 Texas Longhorns come into town for another top 20 matchup on Saturday.
The Bears (15-5, 3-4 Big 12) are in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, winning three games over two ranked opponents at home and against an improved TCU team in Fort Worth. However, the team has not been able to perform on the road as well as they’ve needed to, dropping three contests against Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State since the start of conference play.
After a crowd-pleasing 69-58 win over then-No. 19 Oklahoma, the Bears stumbled in their next conference game in Stillwater, Okla. to drop a 64-53 decision to the Cowboys. In the game, the offense could not pull together a late run while it continued to shoot 34.5 percent.
“We couldn’t get buckets in transition or inside,” head coach Scott Drew said. “It seemed all night that we didn’t have any easy things.”
While the Bears had 35 rebounds in the Tuesday night matchup, the team didn’t get any luck when it did get the rebound. The Cowboys made it difficult to get both the offense and defense going for the Bears.
“Oklahoma State is very good in defensive rebounding,” Drew said. “They did a better job than us on the boards, we didn’t make some shots, and that’s where you’ve got to give them credit where credit’s due. They had some guys stepped up and make good shots tonight.”
If the Bears want to come out victorious against a very talented Longhorn team, they’ve got to learn from their mistakes in Stillwater.
“We’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball,” Gathers said. “We got up quick shots. The momentum was going their way, and we have to be poised down the stretch. We did a real good job on defense, but not a good job on the offensive end, and that made it hard.”
The Longhorns started the season on a hot streak and only dropped a game to No. 1 Kentucky on the road and a close overtime loss to Stanford in Austin. Since then, the Longhorns have had their highs and lows in the Big 12.
After they trampled Texas Tech to start out conference play, the Longhorns went on an unusual win-lose pattern. Texas dropped a 21-point loss to Oklahoma and an 11-point contest against Oklahoma State, then went and topped then-No. 16 West Virginia and TCU. The team then made a full turn right after that to lose to then-No. 11 Kansas and most recently No. 15 Iowa State on Monday.
The Longhorns have four players who averaged double-digit points per contest with Isaiah Thomas leading the way with 13.4 per game. Texas has an aggressive front court and a balanced guard position where it averages 70 points each game.
The Bears have a chance to take advantage of their home court and get back on track this Saturday with another ranked foe in their territory. As a motivation for the matchup, Baylor lost both meetings last year to the Longhorns.
“We’ve bounced back successfully so far this year, and that’s what we need to keep doing because we all know how tough it is on the road,” Drew said. “The key is to protect our home court, and fans are a lot more important than they may realize.”
The Bears and Longhorns showdown starts at 5 p.m. at the Ferrell Center on Saturday night. The matchup will be broadcast live on ESPN2.