The Baylor Bears (22-7, 10-6 Big 12) are coming off two key wins against conference rivals Iowa State and West Virginia, and have won four games in a row. They’ll look to continue that momentum when they visit the Texas Longhorns (17-12, 6-10 Big 12) at the Frank Erwin Center tonight.
Baylor is looking to keep its momentum going so that it may rise in the national rankings, and their 78-66 win over the Mountaineers on February 28 only helped their cause. Granted, West Virginia was without star player Juwan Staten and the Bears ran wild over the team’s defense from start to finish, but the team’s effort as a whole was nothing but admirable. Forward Royce O’Neal scored 18 points and dished out seven assists while also drilling four three-pointers, and Rico Gathers put up 17 points and 10 rebounds. Off the bench, Taurean Prince led all players with 20 points and even had three steals.
Texas, on the other hand, is looking to just get onto the bubble. The Longhorns have lost four straight, all to ranked teams. Avoiding a fifth defeat would at least show an inkling of momentum heading into the Big 12 Tournament, which begins on March 11.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Longhorns are coming off an incredibly disappointing loss to the No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks on February 28. Despite leading 34-31 at halftime and point guard Isaiah Taylor putting up 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds, plus 10 points, eight boards and a whopping five blocks from freshman big man Myles Turner, Kansas could not be stopped. Perry Ellis led the way with 28 points and 13 rebounds, and the Jayhawks came back to win 69-64.
Moreover, Texas is looking to avenge its January 31 loss to Baylor in Waco. That game was an 83-60 drubbing, and the Longhorns ran head-first into a smothering defense that only allowed them to shoot 38.6 percent from the field. In every sense of the phrase, tonight’s contest is an absolute must-win for Texas.
That all being said, though this seems like a one-sided matchup on paper, fans should expect an all out war on the hardwood. Both teams are from the same state, and one is looking to rise both nationally and in-conference as the tournament draws near, while the other is just looking for a remote shot at an NCAA tournament berth. On top of that, both are top ten teams in rebounding when it comes to national rankings (Texas 4th, Baylor 6th).
So be sure to tune into ESPNU at 7:00 pm tonight, college hoops fans, and watch the roaring Bears fight off an impending Longhorns stampede!
*Section Photo credit to Cooper Neill, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports