No. 2 Baylor, No. 6 Texas prepare for showdown in Austin
Undefeated No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 Texas will square off on Tuesday in Austin, Texas, for the first time this season in another battle in the Big 12 Conference's round-robin gauntlet.
This one will not be for the weak of heart. Expect a fight to the finish between two of the toughest, deepest teams in the nation in a fight for Big 12 positioning and NCAA seeding.
The Bears (16-0, 8-0 Big 12) head south to Austin after an 84-72 win at home over surging Auburn on Saturday in a Big 12/SEC Challenge contest. Texas (11-3, 5-2) was supposed to play at Kentucky on Saturday but that game was postponed because of limited player availability within the Wildcats' program due to COVID-19.
Baylor got a huge boost from its bench in the win against Auburn, with reserve Adam Flagler scoring a season-high 19 points and second-teamer Matthew Mayer adding 13 points in 15 minutes of court time.
"It's all about toughness and just a want-to," Flagler said. "We just decided to lock in as a team and box out, and that just led to a bigger lead."
The Bears also got 16 points from Jared Butler, 15 from MaCio Teague and 11 rebounds from Flo Thamba in the victory. Baylor led by just five points at halftime before turning the volume to maximum in the second half.
"In the second half, we started making a couple shots, applying more pressure, getting out in transition, things were just smoother than at the start," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Auburn did such a good job coming down and crashing the glass -- it was hard for us to really get in a rhythm."
The Bears have gone deeper into a season without a loss only once, when they began the 2011-12 campaign with 17 straight wins. Baylor has captured its past 18 nonconference games overall, one short of the school record also set during the 2011-12 season.
Texas looks to rebound from its second loss in three games, with its most recent setback an 80-79 defeat at home to then-No. 24 Oklahoma on Jan. 26.
Kai Jones paced Texas with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Oklahoma game. Greg Brown III scored 14, Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman III tallied 13 points each, and Donovan Williams added a season-high 11 for the Longhorns, who had three players foul out in the loss.
"I try to stay levelheaded," Kai Jones said. "I feel like as a team we make pretty good decisions."
Texas' three losses this season have all been at home to ranked teams and by a combined seven points.
The Longhorns' cancellation of the Kentucky game might actually help them in the long run, as Texas was set to make the trip minus two of its starters, Courtney Ramey and Jericho Sims, because of COVID -19 protocols and without coach Shaka Smart, who tested positive on Jan. 24.
Those two players, as well as key reserve Brock Cunningham (who missed the Longhorns' previous two games while in quarantine) should be back for Tuesday's contest.
Andrew Jones said Smart's message to the team has been consistent throughout the season.
"He tells us: 'Don't get brand new. Continue to play our brand of basketball, regardless of who's on the court, to try and win anyway,'" Jones said.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 2, 2021