Austin, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Lone Star State rivals in the Big 12 Conference get together on Wednesday night, as the Baylor Bears come calling on the 24th-ranked Texas Longhorns.
Baylor had been considered one of the top teams in the country during the first couple of months of the 2013-14 campaign, but the start of Big 12 play brought about a new reality, as the team dropped the lidlifter to Iowa State, and subsequently fell in six of its first seven and eight of its first 10 league bouts overall. The last four games have garnered much more favorable results, with the Bears winning each one, including a pair that needed to go beyond regulation. BU claimed an 88-75 triumph at West Virginia last Saturday to improve to 18-9 overall and 6-8 in conference.
Texas has already reached the 20-win mark (20-7), and it sits at 9-5 in Big 12 play, which has it tied with Iowa State for second place in the standings. Both teams trail Kansas (22-6, 13-2), which won at least a share of its 10th straight conference crown with its victory over Oklahoma on Monday night. The Longhorns are hoping to put the brakes on a brief two-game slide with a win tonight, as they have dropped road verdicts at Iowa State and Kansas in the last week. Returning to the Erwin Center should serve them well, as they are 14-2 at home this season.
Texas leads the all-time series with Baylor, 159-82, and the Longhorns won the first meeting this season in Waco on Jan. 25, 74-60. Under head coach Rick Barnes, UT is 28-7 against the Bears, including a mark of 13-2 in Austin.
Royce O'Neale scored 22 points to lead all five starters in double figures, as Baylor beat West Virginia by double digits in Morgantown last Saturday. Isaiah Austin tallied 19 points, Cory Jefferson logged a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, Kenny Chery had 13 points and Brady Heslip a dozen for the Bears, who shot a sizzling 54.2 percent from the floor, which included a 9- of-20 showing from beyond the arc. O'Neale and Heslip nailed four treys apiece, while O'Neale and Chery combined for 13 assists. Both teams took exceptional care of the basketball, turning it over only four times each.
Jefferson (13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg) continues to pace the team in both scoring and rebounding, and he is joined in double figures by Heslip (11.5 ppg), Austin (11.3 ppg) and Chery (10.3 ppg). Austin is a major force on the interior, coming up with 87 blocks while grabbing 5.7 rpg, and Chery is the team's primary playmaker with 130 assists. Baylor is putting up 75.9 ppg while allowing 68.6 ppg, using the 3-pointer to maximum effectiveness (.400). Heslip is a 46.7 percent shooter from 3-point range, but checks in below 70 percent at the free-throw line. The Bears are +8.1 in rebounding margin.
Texas took it on the chin in its recent clash with Kansas, shooting just 34.4 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from the foul line in suffering a demoralizing 85-54 loss. The Jayhawks exacted a little revenge for an 81-69 to the Longhorns in Austin on Feb. 1, using a staggering 32-5 run at one point in the first half to put the game away early. Jonathan Holmes scored 17 points and Cameron Ridley tacked on 11 for Texas, which allowed Kansas to shoot better than 51 percent from the floor. UT's Isaiah Taylor was held to just five points on 1-of-14 shooting, while Javan Felix didn't fare much better at just 2-of-9 for six points.
Holmes (13.2 ppg), Taylor (12.8 ppg), Felix (12.5 ppg) and Ridley (10.9 ppg) are all averaging double digits for a team that generates 76.0 ppg while permitting 71.0 ppg. Ridley and Holmes rank one-two on the club's rebounding list, grabbing 7.9 and 7.4 rpg, respectively, while Taylor serves as its floor general with 102 assists. Despite giving up more than 70 ppg, the 'Horns allow the opposition to convert only 40.6 percent of their field goal attempts, while also laying claim to a +7.8 rebounding differential.