The pecking order atop the Big 12 standings will continue to take shape when No. 8 Texas travels north to play No. 9 Baylor on Saturday afternoon in Waco, Texas.
The Longhorns (22-6, 11-4 Big 12) are tied with Kansas in first place while Baylor (20-8, 9-6) is tied for third with Kansas State as the regular season winds down. Both Texas and Baylor are predicted to be either second or third seeds in the NCAA Tournament as perhaps as many as nine teams from the rugged Big 12 are now projected to earn a spot in the field of 68.
But that discussion is on the back burner as the Longhorns and Bears continue each other’s oldest basketball rivalry. Texas beat the Bears 76-71 on Jan. 30 in Austin in the first meeting of the season.
The Longhorns have won two straight and three of their past four games, the most recent a 72-54 walloping of No. 23 Iowa State at home on Tuesday.
Tyrese Hunter and Sir’Jabari Rice scored 15 points apiece and Marcus Carr added 13 points as Texas produced a near-perfect first half, leading by as many as 20 points, and never let the Cyclones closer than 13 points after halftime.
The victory was Texas’ sixth win this season over a team ranked in the Top 25. It will take a titanic effort for the Longhorns to increase that statistic in Waco on Saturday.
“We’re gonna play a really good team on their home court — an elite-level team, top-10 team in the country,” Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said. “It’s really important that we manage our guys to where they are able to be fresh, excited about still being in the gym and wanting to compete at a high level from an energy standpoint. It’s important that we manage that the right way both mentally and physically.”
The Bears have dropped two straight after 10 of their previous 11 games, losing at then-No. 5 Kansas on Feb. 18 and at No. 14 Kansas State 75-65 on Tuesday. Keyonte George drained hit six 3-pointers among his team-leading 23-point performance while LJ Cryer scored 16 points and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds for Baylor in the loss.
“Kansas State had 19 points on our turnovers — I do think we have an unbelievable backcourt, but we can’t give up 19 points on turnovers,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Part of being a good backcourt is taking care of the rock.”
The game was tied at 43 in the middle of the second half before Baylor surrendered a 12-1 run and was never closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“The great thing about the Big 12 is there are Quad 1 opportunities each and every night,” Drew added. “There are top-25 games every night. That’s why Keyonte and these guys came to Baylor, to be in the best conference. I’ve been here 20 years, and it’s the best it’s ever been, top to bottom.”
–Field Level Media