By Cody Soto
No. 20 Baylor men’s basketball looked to make a statement after dropping two straight conference matchups last week, but the Bears had to overcome offensive struggles from the field on Tuesday night to take a narrow 54-49 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Junior forward Taurean Prince was the lone standout player for the Bears. He shot 9-for-14 from the field for 22 points, including 18 first half points. Junior guard Lester Medford added 10 points, and senior forward Royce O’Neale had nine points, all three pointers.
Junior forward Rico Gathers has played exceptional during conference play, but the star rebounder severely struggled on Tuesday with only two points and six rebounds in the five-point win. O’Neale also contributed six rebounds for the Bears.
Despite a consistent 40 to 50 percent shooting average in the last few Big 12 games, the Bears only shot 38 percent from field, which included a dismal 8-for-24 from three-point range. Baylor also struggled to keep hold of the ball as it had 16 turnovers against the Red Raiders.
The Bears have gotten off to several fast starts in Big 12 matchups, but this game wasn’t one of them. Despite getting huge contributions from Prince, Baylor trailed 15-9 with 12:45 to go after Texas Tech’s Aaron Ross hit a jumper. After head coach Scott Drew called a timeout, the Bears surged to an 11-0 run fueled by all-around performance from Prince.
Zach Smith hit his third three-point shot of the entire season to stop the Texas Tech scoring drought and a dunk by Norense Odiase brought the game within three points. However, two three-pointers by Prince and Medford kicked out the lead once again, allowing Baylor to keep in front despite sloppy rebounding on the defensive end.
After another shot from beyond the arc, this time by O’Neale, the Bears jumped out to their biggest lead of the night, and Gathers blocked a last second shot by Robert Turner to give Baylor the 34-26 halftime lead.
The second half would start out the same for the Bears. After shooting 46 percent from three-point range, Baylor could not get any shots to fall and relied on Medford to get the Bears back on the board. After the junior transfer splashed a three-pointer into the basket, Texas Tech’s Devaungtah Williams and Toddrick Gotcher punched in two baskets of their own for the slim 41-39 Baylor lead.
After numerous attempts to get the offense going, Baylor still could not get into a rhythm and gave up on open drive to the basket to tie the game 41-41. After a botched three-point shot by Texas Tech, Prince stormed down the court for a contested layup to regain the lead.
The Red Raiders fired back with a basket of their own, but Baylor finally got some cushion after Prince, O’Neale and freshman forward Johnathan Motley added points onto the board for the 50-45 lead with less than three minutes to go in regulation.
Odiase dropped in a free throw to pull the game within four, and senior guard Kenny Chery capped off the game with four straight free throws to bring home the 54-49 win for Baylor.
Baylor will have to find an answer for its cold shooting as it hosts Big 12 opponents Kansas State on Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center. The conference matchup airs on ESPNU at noon.