Texas looks to carry momentum into road matchup against Baylor

Timmy+Allen+stops+to+pass+the+ball+during+a+game+against+Iowa+State.+Texas+won+63-41+on+February+5%2C+2022.

Julius Shieh/The Daily Texan

Timmy Allen stops to pass the ball during a game against Iowa State. Texas won 63-41 on February 5, 2022.

Nick Pannes, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Feb. 11, 2022 flipbook.

No. 20 Texas prepares to face No. 10 Baylor for the first time this season Feb. 12 in Waco. Here’s a preview of everything you need to know.

What are the stakes?

Despite beating No. 8 Kansas on Monday, Texas didn’t shake up the standings in the Big 12. Kansas still holds the No. 1 spot, while the Longhorns remain in fourth place. However, the margins are thinner.

If Texas beats Baylor, the Longhorns will rise to the third spot in the Big 12. Texas Tech also has a conference game against TCU on Feb. 12. If Texas beats Baylor and the Red Raiders lose, Texas will move to the second spot in the conference.

This game has major implications beyond the Big 12. A victory against Baylor would give Texas a 4–1 record against ranked teams over its last five games. With seven games left in the season, a strong finish could earn Texas a high seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

What’s the news?

This matchup will be the first meeting between Baylor and Texas in the 2021-22 season. Baylor has won nine of the last 10 matchups and hasn’t lost at home to Texas since Feb. 1, 2016.

Currently, Baylor is still without their top scorer, sophomore guard LJ Cryer. Cryer has missed the last four games due to injury. Cryer was ruled as a game-time decision against Kansas State on Feb. 9 and did not play. Right now, his status for Saturday’s game is still unclear.

Cryer has been a staple of his team’s offense, recording 13.9 points per game off the back of 46.7% shooting from three.

Even without Cryer, Baylor still has a wealth of offensive talent. Junior guard Adam Flager has averaged 14.5 points per game in conference play. Senior guard James Akinjo posted season highs in scoring for Baylor with two 27-point games, and he leads his team with 5.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

Seeing double? You’re not wrong

Baylor head coach Scott Drew is one of the longest-tenured coaches in NCAA Division I men’s basketball. His 19 years in Waco tie him with Kansas head coach Bill Self for the longest active stint at the helm of a Big 12 basketball team. 

Historically, Drew’s offense has defined his career at Baylor. After leading the Bears to their fifth NCAA tournament appearance in the 2007-08 season, Drew’s teams have averaged the 22nd best offense in the league for the last 15 years, according to college basketball statistics service Bart Torvik.

In that same period, Baylor routinely struggled to break into the top 70 defenses. That changed after Texas head coach Chris Beard led Texas Tech to the NCAA finals in 2019 on the back of the best defense in the country.

Beard runs what’s called a “no-middle” or “fan” defense, a style that forces the ball toward the baseline and sidelines, leading the opposing team away from the middle of the court. After seeing Beard’s success in the 2018-2019 season, Drew adopted the no-middle defense.

“Obviously Baylor took (the no-middle defense) from Texas Tech,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “Then they brought high-level athletes to it, especially around the rim.”

Baylor has posted a top-25 defense every season since 2019. Last season, Baylor’s defense was instrumental in defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in an 86-70 upset. By most metrics, Gonzaga had the best offense in the country.

Beard quickly implemented the no-middle defense in his first season at Texas. The Longhorns currently lead the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing just 55.8 points per game. Saturday’s matchup in Waco will likely come down to which team can execute their iteration of Beard’s own defense the best.