Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 11 Baylor visits No. 10 Texas in marquee matchup while Texas A&M looks to finally earn its way into the AP Top 25

Jan 23, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears guard LJ Cryer (4) and guard Keyonte George (1) celebrate after a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: No. 11 Baylor visits No. 10 Texas in marquee matchup while Texas A&M looks to finally earn its way into the AP Top 25

Each week, Gallery Sports will take a quick look at the week that was and the week that is coming up for several of the premier NCAA men’s basketball programs in Texas. Andy Yanez covers the Houston Cougars for Gallery Sports, while this space is reserved for the Big 12 and SEC programs around the Lone Star State. 

No. 11 BAYLOR BEARS (16-5, 5-3 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 75-69 vs. No. 9 Kansas; Won, 67-64 vs. Arkansas

Baylor continued its dominant run through the final three weeks of January with arguably its most impressive week of results yet. First, the Bears toppled No. 9 Kansas at the Ferrell Center in Waco in a game it led almost the entire way and weathered several Jayhawk rallies. Baylor led by as many as 13 in the early going before taking a seven-point advantage into halftime, but Kansas fought all the way back to take its first lead with 15:25 to play, 46-45. Within three minutes, the Bears extended the lead back to eight and held strong the rest of the way for an impressive home win. L.J. Cryer led Baylor with 22 points. Baylor then hosted Arkansas as part of Saturday’s 2023 Big 12/SEC Challenge and picked up a hard-fought 67-64 win. With Kansas in the rearview mirror and highly ranked Texas on deck Monday night, Baylor could have easily been caught overlooking the unranked-but-talented Razorbacks on Saturday. The Bears eventually outlasted Arkansas in what was a back-and-forth war of attrition. Baylor led 19-8 early but missed 16 of 17 shots to end the first half and entered the locker room facing a six-point deficit. Most of the second half was played within a few points, but Baylor eventually took the lead for good with just under four minutes left and survived when a 3-pointer by Joseph Pinion missed the mark in the final seconds. Scott Drew’s team won despite making just 33.9% of their shots, forcing 15 Arkansas turnovers and riding another strong performance by Keyonte George (24 points). 

The week to come: Monday, Jan. 30 at No. 10 Texas; Saturday, Feb. 4 vs. Texas Tech 

No. 11 Baylor returns to the Big 12 grind with two in-state matchups this week, beginning with Monday’s trip to Austin to battle No. 10 Texas. Six teams are currently within a game of first place in the Big 12, and the Longhorns are one of three teams sitting at 6-2 while Baylor holds steady at 5-3. Texas is 12-1 in the brand new Moody Center and will surely greet the Bears with a raucous environment Monday night. Baylor swept its two matchups against Texas last year, including a 68-61 win last March on the road – but the Longhorns are much-improved and hungry to get back into the win column after Saturday’s loss at No. 4 Tennessee. Texas ranks 10th nationally in KenPom’s overall offensive efficiency metric despite ranking outside the top-200 in 3-point shooting, thriving instead by taking care of the basketball and hunting high-percentage looks near the basket. Like many teams in the Big 12, Texas is elite defensively at forcing turnovers – and like Baylor, the Longhorns feature one of the most talented and experienced backcourts in the country. In a game with savvy guards on both sides, Baylor will need to protect the basketball and see its shooting return to form to pick up a difficult road win in Austin. 

Saturday, Baylor kicks off its February schedule at home against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders remain winless in Big 12 play but did pick up a road win at LSU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Baylor and Texas Tech met just two weeks ago in Lubbock, a game the Bears won 81-74 behind 27 points by Keyonte George and only turned the basketball over three times. There are no easy wins available in the Big 12, but fans in Waco will certainly expect a win from their team versus the winless-in-conference Red Raiders on Saturday. 

No. 15 TCU HORNED FROGS (16-5, 5-3 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 79-52 at Oklahoma; Lost, 81-74 at Mississippi State 

TCU had another up-and-down week in what has been a grueling schedule, routing conference foe Oklahoma 79-52 at home before losing 81-74 on the road at Mississippi State. The Horned Frogs jumped out to an 11-0 lead on the Sooners in the game’s opening moments while forcing four turnovers and led by 17 at halftime. The lead ballooned to as high as 31 in the second half as TCU put together a second-straight incredibly dominant performance against a talented opponent. Mike Miles Jr. led the way with 23 points while making all 10 of his free throws. Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State brought TCU crashing back down to earth in multiple ways. The Horned Frogs fell behind by as many as 11 in a lethargic first half but rallied to force overtime with the score tied 66-66. The Bulldogs outscored TCU 15-8 in the overtime period, during which the Horned Frogs only made two field goals. While the loss felt like a missed opportunity for the Frogs, it did not adversely affect their standing in the Big 12. The real pain caused by the loss in Starkville was the apparent loss of do-it-all guard Mike Miles Jr. due to a knee injury he suffered in the first half. An MRI revealed no structural damage to Miles’ knee, but it is unknown when TCU will be with the services of their junior guard again. 

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 31 vs. West Virginia; Saturday, Feb. 4 at Oklahoma State

The No. 15 Horned Frogs’ first test without Miles comes Tuesday night against West Virginia, a team that sits just 2-6 in Big 12 play. Still, TCU knows better than to overlook Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers – the Frogs fell 74-65 at West Virginia just two weeks ago. Head coach Jamie Dixon expressed frustration with TCU’s inability to match West Virginia’s physicality in that game, so look for the Frogs to come out with revenge on their minds Tuesday night. 

TCU heads back on the road to Stillwater, Oklahoma for Saturday afternoon’s bout with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have won three of four to improve to 12-9 and 3-5 in the Big 12. Mike Boynton’s team is 9-2 at home this season, including an impressive win on Jan. 21 over Iowa State. The Cowboys pride themselves on excellent defense – Oklahoma State ranks seventh nationally in overall defensive efficiency and fifth in opposing effective field goal percentage per KenPom. Oklahoma State also blocks 15.6% of opposing shots, more than all but five teams nationally. Working for good shots against Oklahoma State is of the utmost importance, especially in what should be a challenging environment on the road at Gallagher-Iba Arena. 

No. 10 TEXAS LONGHORNS (17-4, 6-2 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 89-75 vs. Oklahoma State; Lost, 82-71 at No. 4 Tennessee

The Longhorns improved to 6-2 with a strong home win over Oklahoma State that felt distinctly different from their 56-46 victory in Stillwater earlier this month. That game was a slow-paced defensive grind, but Tuesday night saw Texas shoot 61.5% from beyond the 3-point arc and carry a steady lead the whole way. Marcus Carr led four Longhorns in double figures with his 21 points. Saturday, Texas traveled to Knoxville for an out-of-conference battle with No. 4 Tennessee and struggled to battle back into the game after the Volunteers built a double-digit first half lead. The Longhorns trailed by as many as 22 before eventually cutting Tennessee’s lead back to 11, but never really threatened to pull off the road win in the final moments. Tennessee dominated the Horns physically, outrebounding Texas 38-23 behind 6-9 forward Olivier Nkamhoua’s 27 points and eight rebounds. The Tennessee win exacted revenge for a 51-50 loss on the road in Austin last season and showed the Longhorns exactly where they need to improve going forward if they hope to be a real threat in March. 

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 31 vs. No. 11 Baylor; Saturday, Feb. 4 at No. 7 Kansas State

Things do not get easier for the Longhorns after their trip to Knoxville. One of the most difficult weeks on Texas’ Big 12 schedule awaits as Rodney Terry’s team hosts red-hot No. 11 Baylor before traveling to the Octagon of Doom to battle No. 7 Kansas State. Baylor has won six straight and presents a similar challenge to what Texas just faced on the glass. The Bears rank sixth nationally in offensive rebounding per KenPom and boast one of the nation’s most talented and experienced backcourts. 

The Longhorns’ Saturday trip to Kansas State will be their second straight Saturday spent in a raucous road arena and will be their third-straight game against a ranked team capable of putting a dent in their resume. Kansas State already has home wins over both Kansas and Baylor and put up 116 points on the road in Austin to top the Longhorns on Jan. 3. Step one toward exacting revenge for Texas is to defend infinitely better than it did in the first matchup – a reasonable expectation given that the Wildcats have come nowhere near that point total in any other game this season. Kansas State is elite at defending the 3-point line, but making tons of shots from deep is hardly the Longhorns’ primary form of offense. Texas will need to take advantage of the Wildcats’ tendency to turn the basketball over and create transition opportunities to quiet what will be an insane crowd at Bramlage Coliseum. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (15-6, 7-1 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 79-63 at No. 15 Auburn; Won, 72-66 vs. Vanderbilt

After two more SEC wins to improve to 7-1 in conference, it is beginning to become absurd that Texas A&M is still unranked in Monday’s AP Poll. The Aggies’ blowout win on the road in a hostile environment at No. 15 Auburn was an impressive feat and was well-earned. Texas A&M outrebounded Auburn turned the basketball over just nine times, and held the Tigers to 3-for-16 on 3-pointers while controlling the action from start to finish. Tyrece Radford poured in 30 points while making 11 of 12 free throws to lead the way for the Aggies. Saturday’s home bout with Vanderbilt was a lot more tightly contested than many A&M fans might have hoped for, but there is never shame associated with finding a way to win games in SEC play. The Aggies trailed the Commodores by as many as nine in the first half before storming to a lead later in the game. A 12-0 run midway through the second half propelled Texas A&M to a 13-point lead with just over eight minutes to go, and the Aggies did what was needed down the stretch to hold on for the win. Henry Coleman III, Wade Taylor IV, and Tyrece Radford all scored 14 or more points in the win, which moved Buzz Williams’ team to 7-1 in conference play. 

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Arkansas; Saturday, Feb. 4 vs. Georgia

Texas A&M will travel to another hostile environment Tuesday night to battle Eric Musselman’s Arkansas Razorbacks. Advanced metrics like KenPom rank Arkansas within the top-25, and it is no secret to fans around the SEC that the Razorbacks are much more talented than their 3-5 conference record suggests. Just this last Saturday, Arkansas came within one shot of forcing overtime against the highly regarded Baylor Bears on the road in Waco. Arkansas is 10-1 at home this season and boast one of the best defenses in the country despite dealing with injuries to important contributors all season. Nothing will come easy on the road in Fayetteville against a desperate, talented bunch. 

The Aggies return home Saturday when they’ll host the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia’s 4-4 record in the SEC has exceeded expectations to date, but KenPom’s rankings still leave the Bulldogs outside the top-100 nationally. Mike White’s team is better defensively than offensively and is especially strong at defending the 3-point line. Still, the Aggies should be a decent-sized favorite here and ought to expect to win games like this at home. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (11-10, 0-8 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 76-61 vs. West Virginia; Won, 76-68 at LSU

The good news for Texas Tech basketball is that the Red Raiders won a game last week, their first triumph since Dec. 27 versus lowly South Carolina State. The bad news is that the Red Raiders are still winless in conference after a double-digit loss at home to the previously struggling West Virginia Mountaineers. Texas Tech’s Wednesday night loss to West Virginia was its eighth-straight and resulted from Tech being dominated on the glass (44-27 in the rebounding department) and making just 3 of 20 3-point attempts. If there was any silver lining for Tech, it forced 19 turnovers – but fans in Lubbock hardly care to hear about silver linings while being blown out at home by one of the Big 12’s other bottom feeders. Saturday saw the Red Raiders finally win on the road at LSU, so perhaps a brief pause in Big 12 action will be enough to get Tech moving in the right direction. The Tigers have had their own share of struggles lately, but Texas Tech’s 61% shooting night on 3-pointers was massively encouraging. 

The week to come: Monday, Jan. 30 vs. No. 13 Iowa State; Saturday, Feb. 4 at No. 11 Baylor

Texas Tech is being thrown right back into the Big 12 fire this week with two top-15 opponents on deck. First, No. 13 Iowa State travels to Lubbock Monday night. The Cyclones buried Texas Tech by 34 in Ames just three weeks ago, forcing 19 Red Raider turnovers, while Gabe Kalscheur (25 points) got anything he wanted offensively for ISU. Iowa State is the best team in the nation at forcing turnovers, making them a particularly tough matchup for Tech’s guards. Texas Tech is in dire need of a conference win, and toppling the Cyclones would go a long way toward trending the team’s momentum in a positive direction. 

Things don’t get any easier for the Red Raiders next Saturday. Tech will travel to Waco to take on another team that it has already lost to in the Baylor Bears. Texas Tech struggled to keep the Bears’ guards in check in the first matchup, as Keyonte George, Adam Flagler, and L.J. Cryer combined to put up 54 points on the road at United Supermarkets Arena. Tech will have to make huge strides on the defensive end to have a chance against one of the hottest teams in the country on the road. 

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