The Texas Longhorns are one of many teams to help their NCAA Tournament seeding with a pair of wins in their conference tournament. On Wednesday, Texas beat Colorado 67-56 behind a 26 point, 10 rebound performance by Dexter Pittman.
Texas (22-10, 11-7) followed their first round win on Thursday with a hard fought 61-58 win over a Kansas State team that was playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. The hero again was Dexter Pittman, who scored 19 points and pulled down a career-high 20 rebounds and blocked four shots.
On Friday at 6pm, the Longhorns will face a familiar foe from Waco in the Baylor Bears (19-13, 7-11). The Bears entered the Big 12 Tournament as the #9 seed and have ripped off wins over Nebraska (65-49) and Kansas (71-64) in huge upset yesterday.
The hero for the Bears in the conference tournament has been sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn, who has averaged 21 points and seven rebounds per game in the victories including 10 three-pointers.
As has been the case in recent years, the Longhorns head into a contest with the Bears with a long winning streak. Texas has won 24 straight against Baylor including wins this year in Waco 78-72 January 27 and in Austin 73-57 March 2.
The play of Pittman has been nothing short of sensational in the Big 12 Tournament. The 6-10 junior has averaged 22.5 points, 15 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots in the two wins.
Texas won on Thursday despite 22 turnovers against the pressure defense of Kansas State. Friday, the Longhorns will face a Baylor team that has gone to a bigger lineup and a 2-3 zone in recent games.
The Longhorns hold a 155-75 series advantage over Baylor, including 24 straight.
The winner of Friday night’s game will play for the Big 12 Tournament Championship on Saturday at 5pm against the winner of the other semifinal game which pits Oklahoma State and Missouri.
The game is set to tip-off at 6pm central and will be televised by the Big 12 Sports Network.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 471-237, including 269-103 at Texas. Barnes is 15-10 in Big 12 Tournament games.
Scott Drew is in his fifth season as the head coach in Waco. Drew has a career record of 96-104, including 76-93 at Baylor. The Bears are 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament under Drew.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 44.1% from the field, 31.9% from three and 67.1% from the free throw line.
The Bears convert 46.1% overall, 36.1% from the three-point line and 70.6% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender 40.4% shooting and own a +5.1 rebound advantage.
Baylor surrenders 43.2% defensively and checks in with a -0.1 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 12.5 turnovers per game, while the Bears are turning the ball over 13.0 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (3.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (16.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists)
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists)
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks)
Key reserves include 6-6 sophomore Gary Johnson, 6-11 senior Connor Atchley (4.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (2.1 points and 1.6 rebounds)
The Bear Starters
G Curtis Jerrells 6-0 Sr. (16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists)
G Tweety Carter 5-10 Jr. (10.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists)
G LaceDarius Dunn 6-3 So. (15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists)
F Kevin Rogers 6-8 Sr. (12.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists)
C Josh Lomers 6-11 Jr. (3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds)
Key reserves are 6-0 senior Henry Dugat (10.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists), 7-0 senior Mamadou Diene and 6-9 freshman Anthony Jones (3.1 points and 1.7 rebounds).
What to Watch For
The Longhorns will face a different look Baylor team than the first two meetings. Baylor is now playing a bigger line-up with centers Josh Lomers and Mamadou Diene logging key minutes as well as a 2-3 zone look.
Texas has to defend the three-point line. That means Justin Mason and A.J. Abrams can’t turn their head and look to help in the mid-range post when Kevin Rogers receives the ball on in the low post when Lomers receives the ball. Both players have shown the ability to make bad decisions to leave catch and shoot players in similar situations and they simply can’t against Dunn and Tweety Carter. Both players shoot over 38% from three.
Dogus Balbay has to defend Curtis Jerrells without getting into early foul trouble. Jerrells has struggled in the first two meeting of the year against Texas.
Should Baylor remain in the 2-3 zone, the Longhorns will attack the high-post and look to high/low as they have with success against the 2-3 zone all season. Also, Justin Mason has played well along the baseline against the zone this year and he has to attack off the dribble against a Baylor team that doesn’t play disciplined defense in man or zone.
Texas has to keep pounding the ball inside of 12 feet and get a lot of shots on rim and give ample offensive rebounding opportunities. A.J. Abrams has to take smart three’s.
When Josh Lomers, Mamadou Diene and Kevin Rogers get the ball at point blank range; the Longhorns must foul hard and make all three players earn their points at the line. All three are sub-65% free throw shooters.
Damion James should have a big game today against the Bears, especially playing the high post and moving in the 2-3 zone as well as offensive rebounding. James played only 24 minutes yesterday due to foul trouble and should have fairly fresh legs compared to others players who have logged heavy minutes in the two games in two days stretch for Texas and Baylor.