The #11 Texas Longhorns (20-4, 7-2) look to extend their current four game winning streak and remain just a half game out of the conference lead as they travel up IH 35 for an afternoon contest with the Baylor Bears (17-6, 5-4). Tip time is 5 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.
The Bears defeated the Aggies in College Station on January 23rd in an epic five-overtime battle but have dropped four of their last five and are on verge of sliding into the bottom half of the conference and out of consideration for the NCAA tournament. A win over the Longhorns would put Scott Drew’s club back on track.
The Horns won the first meeting with the Bears, 80-72, in Austin and are a perfect 21-0 against Baylor under Coach Barnes. Fifteen of those wins have come by double digits. Despite the recent slide by the Bears, I will be shocked if this one comes easily. Ken Pomeroy is predicting a 78-76 Horns’ victory but Vegas has the Bears as one and a half point favorites.
As we know from the game in Austin, Baylor is loaded at guard. Senior Aaron Bruce is a BON favorite and plays the game as intelligently as anyone in the Big XII. He shoots over 41% from three and is an outstanding passer. Junior Curtis Jerrells, a Del Valle product, is the Bears’ most dangerous scorer. He can beat his man off the dribble, knock down the three, and attacks well in transition. Justin Mason did an excellent job on Jerrells in Austin, and Barnes will be looking for a similar effort today. Junior Henry Dugat and sophomore Tweety Carter are two more solid guards. Both can knock down the three ball effectively. Dugat is an effective rebounder for a guard, while Carter uses his quickness well to break down defenses. The final guard is freshman LaceDarius Dunn. Dunn has yet to see a shot he doesn’t like but is still hitting on a team leading 43% of his three-pointers. He is instant offense off the bench and a valuable weapon for Coach Drew.
The Baylor big men are less talented but could be important to today’s outcome. Texas will likely try to take away the Baylor transition game as much as possible as well as defend the three-pointer. If Texas is successful on both points, then the interior may be open for Kevin Rodgers and Josh Lomers. I’m not worried about the slow footed Lomers, but Rodgers is long, athletic, and active. He could easily get the Texas bigs in foul trouble and go for 20 and 10 if Texas doesn’t find him on the offensive glass.
Keys to the Game:
Baylor torched the Horns early in the game in Austin by knocking down the long ball. As they went cold, Texas began to take control of the game. Their offense is built heavily on their ability to hit the three-pointer. If Texas can take away the three, they will be in good position to pick up their fourth conference road win.
This will be a big key for DJ Augustin for the rest of the season. For weeks now, teams have elected to have an additional defender help on all of DJ’s drives, and Augustin has had difficulty finishing over taller defenders. DJ must recognize where the help is coming from and dish to the open big man. He started to pass off his drive more in the second half against Kansas. As long as Connor Atchley, Gary Johnson, and Damion James are ready to catch the passes, I expect DJ to pass more and more as he enters the lane.
Baylor fouls a lot. Texas shot 29 free throws in the first meeting but made just 19. Making foul shots is even more important on the road and will greatly help keep the sold out Ferrell Center out of the game.