BAYLOR BEARS VS TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Watch Live NCAA BK .Exclusive Premium Stream .
One of the coaches in Saturday’s Big 12 matchup of the visiting Baylor Bears and the 15th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders says his opponent is noteworthy nationally, not only in the conference.
Who’s talking about who? Here’s a hint: He’s not talking about the one with the lofty ranking attached.
The Bears (16-8, 7-4 Big 12), who had to reinvent themselves after losing sophomore big man Tristan Clark to a season-ending left knee injury on Jan. 8, have still won seven of their last nine games, a span that includes a home court 73-62 win over the Red Raiders (20-5, 8-4) on Jan. 19.
Leading scorer Makia Mason, who is averaging 15.6 points a game and exploded for 40 on Feb. 2 in a rout of TCU, missed a game last weekend with a foot injury. While he returned Monday, he made only 2 of 14 shots and went 0 of 5 on 3-point attempts as Baylor defeated the visiting Oklahoma Sooners.
Instead, Devonte Bandoo scored a team-high 19 points, more than double his season average, in the win.
Further, Bears coach Scott Drew doesn’t know when guard King McClure will return from a knee injury that has sidelined him for two games. McClure, who is averaging 9.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, could be a game-time decision.
“Everyone on our team from, Devonte Bandoo to Freddie Gillespie … everyone’s stepped up and helped us win games, and it hasn’t been the same two or three guys every night,” Drew said.
Gillespie, who is averaging 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds a game, finished with 13 and nine in Baylor’s narrow loss to conference-leading Kansas State on Feb. 9.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said he knows what to expect from the Bears, “one of the hottest teams in the country right now, not just the Big 12,” since they were already without Clark when they beat the Red Raiders last month.
“We want to try to do some things defensively that can change the game from time to time, but Baylor is going to shoot 3-point shots. They’re going to make 3-point shots,” Beard said, calling the long-range game Baylor’s “identity.”
Texas Tech’s identity is unabashedly defense. At midweek, the Red Raiders were first in the nation in defensive field goal percentage (36.2) and third in scoring defense (57.3), perhaps indicating how well Baylor did in scoring 73 on them last month.
“We spend a lot of time on defense in practice every day. … Our players, they’ve really bought into it,” said Beard, whose team’s only nonconference loss was to Duke.
Texas Tech averages 70.9 points a game offensively, led by Jarrett Culver’s 17.7 points a game, with Matt Mooney and Davide Moretti both just under 11 per game.
“Texas Tech, they’ve really been shooting the ball well, and defensively they’ve been off the charts all year long, but when they’re making shots, they’re really hard to beat,” Drew said.
Culver, a 6-foot-6 guard, also leads the Red Raiders with 6.2 rebounds a game.
Texas Tech is riding a three-game winning streak, but in an indication of how tough life in the Big 12 can be, the Red Raiders endured three straight losses in mid-January: to now-No. 23 Iowa State, Baylor, and now-No. 18 Kansas State, with the margins of victory ranging from four to 13 points.