By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
The Baylor men’s basketball team is coming off its third straight win as it goes into a mid-season matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center as a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Freshman guard Jared Butler, a Reserve, La., native, originally committed to play for Alabama before flipping his commitment to the Bears on Aug. 19.
Sitting at 12-6, the Bears’ momentum has been on and off throughout the season. With a win this weekend, the Bears will be on their longest win streak of the year. Baylor is currently tied for first place in the Big 12 standings with Kansas and Kansas State.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said taking one game at a time and establishing his team’s confidence has been key to the Bears’ recent success.
“We learned early on this year that we can beat anybody or that we can lose to anybody,” Drew said. “I really like the lesson that we can beat anybody, but I think that you learn more sometimes in your losses. [We need to] understand that you have to be prepared for each and every game. Otherwise, in the Big 12, you don’t even give yourself a chance to win.”
After Baylor’s upset against No. 8 Texas Tech last week, the Bears carried that momentum to a win over West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va. Against the Mountaineers, Baylor scored 85 points, got 45 rebounds and recorded 17 assists, making it one of the Bears’ most well-rounded games of the season so far.
Senior guard Makai Mason attributed the Bears’ recent success and offensive momentum to keeping their composure and pushing back against the competition.
“It’s the Big 12. Every team is going to make a run. We just had to weather the storm there,” Mason said. “Getting stops and rebounds I think was a big thing. We know shots are going to fall here and there. … That’s the Big 12. Especially this year, every game comes down to the last possession. If we can keep stringing along, you never know what can happen.”
During the Bears’ three-game win streak, Mason has 58 points while making over half of his shots. With a season average of 15.6 points per game, Mason is averaging 18.2 points per game in Big 12 play.
After losing key players like sophomore forward Tristan Clark and senior guard Jake Lindsey to injuries, the “step-up” mentality has grown throughout the team. Influential players like Mason are a part of multiple factors contributing to the Bears success. Butler said Mason is a role model for him.
“Makai is always poised and makes the right play,” Butler said. “He doesn’t get tired of making the right play, so I feel like that’s a very good quality in being a point guard. I try to be like Makai and learn a lot from Makai and with the things he does. I just add it to my game.”
Alabama freshman guard Kira Lewis Jr. has similar statistics to Mason, posing a noteworthy threat for the Bears going into Saturday’s game. Hitting midseason with nearly 250 points already and only 35 turnovers, Lewis is an offensive weapon the Bears will have to defend against this weekend.
Following the matchup with Alabama, the Bears will face Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Monday in Norman, Okla.