Baylor men’s basketball (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) takes on the No. 2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (23-4, 11-3) in a Top-25 Big 12 conference clash tonight at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears are coming off a week in which they defeated then-ranked No. 13 Iowa State at home and #24 Texas on the road after dropping a home game to unranked Texas Tech the week before.
“You have to have short term memory in whatever you do,” head coach Scott Drew said. “You get a great win, you have to move on from it, you have a big loss or something, you’ve got to move on.”
The matchup tonight has major Big 12 title implications as the Bears are in a three-way tie for second place in the conference while the Jayhawks hold the top spot.
“Obviously it’s a big game if we want to stay in the conference title race,” Drew said. “The other thing is, it’s also a big game for everything else that’s involved at the end of the year.”
Senior forward Rico Gathers will come off the bench for the second straight game after missing two of three games with the flu. Sophomore Johnathan Motley will start in his place.
Motley has been a key contributor for the Bears in Gathers’ absence. The six-foot-nine forward put up 27 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Iowa State followed up by 24 points on 12-of-13 shooting in the the win over Texas.
“He made some tough and-ones and he did a good job offensive rebounding,” Drew said. “But, I think why he shot a high percentage is because we did a great job breaking pressure and taking the right shots.”
The two teams met for the first time this season on January 2nd in Lawrence. The Jayhawks won that meeting 102-74.
In that game, the Bears shot just 39% from the field and 27% from three-point range while allowing Kansas to shoot 54% and 58%, respectively.
“They don’t lose home games. That’s it, plain and simple,” Drew said. “They knocked us out early and we were playing catch-up the rest of the way.”
The Bears will attempt to slow down a Kansas offense that averages 82.7 points per game, ranking second in the Big 12 and 15th in the country.
Three point shooting will be key, as Baylor makes 6.1 three per game on average while Kansas makes 8.4. In the first meeting, the Bears knocked down just three from long range while the Jayhawks hit 11.
With four games remaining in the Big 12 season, the Bears still have Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma, and West Virginia on the schedule.
A win against Kansas today would greatly improve Baylor’s tournament resume and put them back in contention for the Big 12 conference title as we near the end of the regular season.