Monday, Mar 2, 2009, 8:00 PM CST
Frank Erwin Center * Austin, TX
Radio: 98.1 FM / 1300 AM (Austin)
Las Vegas Line: Texas -9
KenPom Data Prediction: Texas, 75-68
TexasSports.com / BaylorBears.CSTV.com
|Overall Record||17-11||19-9||Offensive Efficiency (Rank)||114.3 (20)||110.3 (52)|
||Defensive Efficiency (Rank)||99.3 (136)||91.3 (27)|
||Strength of Schedule Rank||#36||#27|
|Away / Neutral Record||2-6 / 2-1
||4-5 / 3-2||Quality Wins (KenPom Top 50)
at Wash State
at Kansas St
|Record Last 5 and 10 Games||2-3 / 2-8
||3-2 / 5-5||Losses||
at Texas A&M
at Ok State
Stakes and Keys to the Game after the jump.
Simply put, this is a must win game for the Longhorns. With Texas closing the season at Kansas this weekend, a loss tonight would probably fate the Longhorns to an end-of-season three game losing streak. While the non-conference wins over UCLA and Villanova are still jewels in the ‘Horns’ resume, Texas doesn’t not want to see if the Committee values those over a .500 conference record and a late season slide. Texas also does not want to be playing in the Big XII tournament for their NCAA tournament lives.
A win would also assure the Longhorns of a 20-win season, their tenth straight over Rick Barnes. Last, Texas has won 23 straight over Baylor, including a 78-72 win in Waco in late January.
The Bears come staggering into Austin. Baylor did defeat Colorado at home over the weekend but had dropped eight of their previous nine games. During that slide, the Bears quickly went from a likely NCAA tournament team to a team just hoping for an NIT invite. Baylor is also just 1-6 in conference road games this season.
For Baylor, this game is about pride and saving face. The Bears have been close to knocking off the Longhorns multiple times in the last couple of seasons but have never pulled it off. A win over the Longhorns would be especially sweet for Del Valle native and senior guard, Curtis Jerrells, who seems to always play well against the ‘Horns. Although this season was supposed to achieve so much more, Scott Drew’s club could definitely make a loud end-of-year statement by winning in Austin.
Ken PomeroyPomeroy’s stats show the Bears to be a similar team to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both like to score in transition and rely heavily on the three-pointer for points; both have three or four guards in their starting lineup and struggle on the offensive glass; and both have had trouble this year getting stops, particularly in conference play.
The Baylor defense is so bad that it requires an above average shooting night to produce a victory. Take a look at the Baylor game plan. Baylor is 5-0 in conference when their effective field goal percentage is over 50% and 0-9 when their eFG % is under 50%. Basically, when Baylor is shooting well, they have a chance to outscore their opponents, and when they are not, their porous defense dooms them to a loss.
I’m not sure if the similarities between the two teams bode well for the Longhorns considering Texas scored just 18 points in the first half and needed a significant second half rally to get back into the game. However, Texas should be comfortable with the style of play and should have no trouble recognizing the keys to the game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Find three-point shooters in the half court. This is a game where the Texas guards must remember scouting reports. All the Baylor Bears are going to act like they are three point shooters—some Texas should invite to shoot the three, while others must be run at immediately and made to put the ball on the deck. The two guys Texas cannot allow catch-and-shoot open threes are LaceDarius Dunn (39% from three) and Tweety Carter (43%). Both Dunn and Carter have more made three-pointers than they do two point buckets. The two guys Texas can allow to shoot threes are Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat. While both players can definitely knock down the long jumpers, they are more dangerous when collapsing a defense off the bounce and scoring in the lane and at the line.
2. Limit Baylor’s transition opportunities. In the first game between these two teams, Texas held Baylor in check for the first twenty minutes and led at the half 27-24. It was certainly not an offensive show by either team as both defenses forced perimeter jumpers and limited easy looks in transition. The second half was a different story, however. Turnovers led to easy run out opportunities for both teams and scoring increased dramatically. As mentioned above, Baylor wins when they shoot the ball well, and lose when they don’t. Although the Bears may be gifted outside shooters, they really punish their opposition when they get out in transition and score easy points. Texas needs to do two things to limit the Baylor fast break offense. 1) Protect the ball. Since the insertion of Dogus Balbay into the starting lineup, this hasn’t been a problem. Actually, Texas is among the nation’s leaders in turnover percentage on the season, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. 2) Get back. There isn’t an easier way to say this. Texas must commit a guard, usually Balbay, to defending the bucket when a shot goes up. Earlier this season, with Mason at the point, Texas got into trouble when Justin would compete on the offensive glass instead of retreat on defense. This happens occasionally with Dogus as well but the other problem is when Balbay attacks the basket off the dribble. AJ must be aware when this happens and hustle back, regardless if he starts his retreat from the offensive baseline.
3. Attack the rim, get to the foul line, and make defenses pay for playing off the Texas guards, save AJ. Texas did the opposite of those three things in the first half in Stillwater and scored just 18 points. We shot 24% from the field, didn’t attempt a single free throw, and let Terrel Harris double team the post when Balbay still had the ball in his hands. Texas, and particularly Balbay, got better in the second half. Dogus made the defenses react by taking the ball into the lane; Texas tried to feed the post from the hands of shooters like AJ Abrams and Harrison Smith; and aggression by Damion James and Dexter Pittman was rewarded by trips to the free throw line. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to adjust to a sagging defense. If it does and Baylor is hot, then it could be a long night for this offensively limited bunch.
4. Feed the post—Dexter Pittman, Gary Johnson, Clint Chapman, and Damion James. This is obviously not easy when the post is being double teamed without the ball. However, Texas still needs to make a conscious effort to play inside-out on offense. I pray that Gary Johnson is able to go tonight, as his presence alone makes defenses play more honest. But even if he isn’t, dropping the ball to Dexter or Chap on the low block will help free up shooters and cutters. Simply pounding the ball at the top of the key will not.This is a big one Horns’ fans. Come out to the Erwin Center tonight on Senior Night for AJ Abrams and Connor Atchley. It is likely the final home game for junior Damion James as well.