Texas College Hoops Roundup: Texas A&M continues to surge in SEC play while No. 7 Texas prepares for a pair of road showdowns

Jan 11, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies guard Tyrece Radford (23) pushes the ball up court against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Texas College Hoops Roundup: Texas A&M continues to surge in SEC play while No. 7 Texas prepares for a pair of road showdowns

Each week, Gallery Sports will take a quick look at the week that was and the week that’s 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. 21 BAYLOR BEARS (12-5, 2-3 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 83-78 at West Virginia; Won, 74-58 vs. Oklahoma State

After a frustrating 0-3 start to Big 12 play, Baylor righted the ship with back-to-back wins last week versus West Virginia and Oklahoma State. In Morgantown, freshman Keyonte George scored 32 points to lead the Bears, including five 3-pointers while making 10-of-18 from the field overall. Baylor and West Virginia traded leads throughout the second half, but the Bears jumped ahead for the final time with 2:50 remaining and held on the rest of the way. Scott Drew’s team iced the game at the free throw line, where they made 28-of-36 attempts on the night. Baylor wasted no time jumping out to a lead in Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma State, building a 39-23 lead at halftime and never allowing the Cowboys within single digits in the second half. The Bears led by as many as 28 in the dominant showing, their best since Big 12 play began. Baylor out-rebounded the Cowboys 41-30 and saw four different starters finish the game in double figures.

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 17 at Texas Tech; Saturday, Jan. 21 at Oklahoma 

Hoping to continue its climb back up the Big 12 standings, Baylor heads west to Lubbock for a battle with desperate Texas Tech on Tuesday night. The Red Raiders have opened conference play 0-5, but Baylor would be wise not to overlook Mark Adams’ team. Texas Tech still defends at an elite level and has lost four of five by six points or fewer in conference play. The Red Raiders were also the only team on Baylor’s schedule to defeat the Bears twice last season.

Baylor then heads to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners, who are 2-3 in conference play without a single game decided by more than five points. Oklahoma gave No. 2 Kansas all it could handle last week on the road, leading by as many as 10 before eventually falling 79-75. Porter Moser’s team plays one of the country’s slowest tempos and works hard for great shots on offense. The Sooners rank No. 9 nationally in KenPom’s effective field goal percentage metric and are 11th-best nationally at defending opposing 3-point shooters. Oklahoma’s defense will make Baylor’s guards work hard to find good looks, but the Sooners tend to turn the ball over excessively on the offensive end. If Baylor hopes to build a lead on the road in Norman, creating transition opportunities against a team that wants to play slowly could be the way to do so.

No. 14 TCU HORNED FROGS (14-3, 3-2 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 79-75 at No. 10 Texas; Won, 82-68 vs. No. 11 Kansas State

No. 14 TCU went 1-1 in Big 12 play last week, an impressive feat against two of the better teams in the country – but it is hard to feel like Jamie Dixon’s team didn’t leave some meat on the bone last Wednesday in Austin. The Frogs fell 79-75 at No. 10 Texas after leading by as many as 18 points. After TCU built a big lead in the first half, the Longhorns slowly chipped away and eventually tied the Horned Frogs with just 4:39 remaining. Marcus Carr’s 3-pointer put Texas ahead for good with 1:01 left. The Horned Frogs rebounded nicely from the close loss at Texas, handling No. 11 Kansas State by 14 points at home Saturday afternoon. TCU jumped out to an early lead once again, but did not allow the Wildcats back into the game after halftime. The Horned Frogs led by as many as 25 and forced 20 turnovers by Kansas State. The blowout win was impressive given TCU’s struggles from beyond the arc, where they made just 3-of-19. Emmanuel Miller scored 23 for the Frogs, while Eddie Lampkin Jr. poured in 17 points on 6-of-7 from the field.

The week to come: Wednesday, Jan. 18 at West Virginia; Saturday, Jan. 21 at No. 2 Kansas

The Horned Frogs will continue Big 12 play with a trip to Morgantown on Wednesday. Bob Huggins’ West Virginia Mountaineers have struggled in conference play, falling to 0-5 – but like most teams in the Big 12, they’re playing almost exclusively close games. West Virginia is a top-25 team in KenPom, above average across the board offensively, and is led by one of the most well-respected head coaches in America. TCU cannot afford a hangover after two ranked opponents, nor can the Horned Frogs look ahead to their trip to Lawrence next weekend.

Saturday’s game on the road at No. 2 Kansas will be a great test for a TCU team that fancies itself as one of the country’s best teams. The Horned Frogs split two games during the regular season with Kansas last year, but were knocked out of the Big 12 tournament by the Jayhawks. Kansas is the only undefeated team in the Big 12, but they have only won by more than four points once in conference play. The Jayhawks’ current 10-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest in the nation. If the Horned Frogs are to topple Kansas, containing junior guard Jalen Wilson (19.8 points per game) has to be a top priority.

No. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS (15-2, 4-1 Big 12)

The week that was: Won, 79-75 vs. No. 17 TCU; Won, 72-70 vs. Texas Tech

It feels as if every Big 12 game this season comes down to a tight finish, so the conference’s regular season champion might just end up being the team that plays best down the stretch of close battles. So far, the Longhorns have passed those tests – including back-to-back close wins at home last week. The Longhorns overcame an 18-point deficit versus No. 17 TCU on Wednesday night, outscoring the Horned Frogs 50-33 in the second half. Marcus Carr’s 3-pointer put Texas ahead late, and free throws by Sir’Jabari Rice finished the job in the final seconds. The Longhorns came from behind Saturday as well, toppling Texas Tech 72-70 after trailing by nine at halftime and as many as 12. Texas was out-rebounded 40-31, but 20 points from Marcus Carr and 17 points from Timmie Allen led the way as the Longhorns overcame a second-straight double-digit deficit to win.

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 17 at No. 12 Iowa State; Saturday, Jan. 21 at West Virginia

While Texas head coach Rodney Terry is undoubtedly proud of his team’s grit last week, the Longhorns would do well not to make falling behind a habit. Texas will travel to Ames for a battle with No. 12 Iowa State on Tuesday night, a difficult challenge in one of the Big 12’s most raucous arenas. Iowa State is tied with the Longhorns in the Big 12 standings at 4-1, its only loss coming on the road at No. 2 Kansas last Saturday. The Cyclones are only allowing 57.9 points per game, and force turnovers on 29.1% of opposing possessions, more often than any other team in the country. When the Cyclones are forcing turnovers and creating transition opportunities at home, they’re especially tough to beat – just ask Texas Tech, who lost by 34 in Ames last week.

The Longhorns will travel to Morgantown for a date with West Virginia next. The Mountaineers are 0-5 but have been plenty competitive in Big 12 play, and will be extremely hungry for a win with a team like Texas in town. There are no nights off in conference play, and Bob Huggins will have his team ready to spring an upset in front of a huge crowd on Saturday. In order to avoid it, Texas’ guards will have to stay poised in the face of the Mountaineers’ defensive pressure, a staple of Bob Huggins’ teams.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (12-5, 4-0 SEC)

The week that was: Won, 82-64 vs No. 20 Missouri; Won, 94-53 at South Carolina

Texas A&M continued its resurgence in SEC play, improving to 4-0 in conference after back-to-back blowout wins last week. No. 20 Missouri came to College Station with a 13-2 record and an impressive blowout win over Kentucky on its resume, but the Aggies dismantled the Tigers with ease. Texas A&M built a 43-25 lead by halftime and never looked back, leading by as many as 21 and outrebounding the Tigers 42-25. Tyrece Radford led the way with 16 points, but six different Aggies finished the night in double figures, and Dexter Dennis posted a double-double. The Aggies then avoided a letdown Saturday against South Carolina, a team that proved its feistiness with a road win at Kentucky earlier in the week. Texas A&M jumped out to an absurd 50-18 halftime lead, dragging the Gamecocks up and down the floor all night in Columbia. Texas A&M allowed South Carolina just 16 rebounds all night, and the Aggies made 55% of their shots. The lead ballooned as large as 46 on a night Texas A&M made the Gamecocks look like a team from a much lower-tier conference.

The week to come: Wednesday, Jan. 18 vs. Florida; Saturday, Jan. 21 at Kentucky

Texas A&M will get its first SEC rematch on Wednesday night as it takes on Florida. The Aggies defeated the Gators 66-63 on the road just two weeks ago and will need to continue their high level of play to avoid a home loss against Todd Golden’s revenge-minded bunch. Florida has won three straight since losing to the Aggies and boasts the 14th-ranked defense in the nation per KenPom. Nothing will come easy against the Gators, who have been salivating for this opportunity for two weeks.

The Aggies will then head on the road to one of college basketball’s hallowed grounds for a matchup with Kentucky. The Wildcats have had a roller-coaster season so far, but are talented enough to play with anyone in the country. Kentucky’s home loss to South Carolina last week was a head-scratcher, but Saturday’s win at No. 5 Tennessee is one of the best wins on any resume in the country. The Aggies have made a name for themselves as a dominant rebounding team, but boards will be difficult to come by against center Oscar Tshiebwe and the Cats. Kentucky enters this week ranked 2nd nationally in offensive rebounding per KenPom.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (10-7, 0-5 Big 12)

The week that was: Lost, 84-50 at No. 14 Iowa State; Lost, 72-70 at No. 10 Texas

Texas Tech finally seemed to hit rock bottom in Tuesday night’s loss on the road in Ames. No. 14 Iowa State thoroughly dominated the Red Raiders, building a 19-point lead at halftime and only expanding it as the second half went along. The Cyclones made 54% of their 3-pointers, forced 19 Red Raider turnovers, and out-rebounded Texas Tech 45-28. The Red Raiders traveled to Austin for a battle with No. 10 Texas next, and while head coach Mark Adams would never encourage his team to celebrate a “moral victory,” the Red Raiders were much more competitive in their two-point loss to the Longhorns. Still, Texas Tech is 0-5 in Big 12 play – and watched a 12-point lead slip away in Austin. Pop Isaacs was a bright spot for the Red Raiders, leading the team with 23 points versus Texas.  

The week to come: Tuesday, Jan. 17 vs. No. 21 Baylor; Saturday, Jan. 21 at No. 12 Kansas State

Texas Tech needs to get its Big 12 season moving in the right direction quickly if it wants to compete atop the conference later on this season, and a win at home over No. 21 Baylor would be a good way to start. The Bears are 2-3 in Big 12 play, but trending upward after two wins last week. Baylor brings with it one of the most talented backcourts in the country and the eighth-most efficient offense in the nation per KenPom. Texas Tech swept the Bears last season, so perhaps a date with Baylor is just what Mark Adams’ team needs.

The Red Raiders will head back on the road on Saturday for a battle with No. 13 Kansas State in Manhattan. Texas Tech is still looking for its first road win of the season, and the “Octagon of Doom” as Bramlage Coliseum is known will not be an easy place to earn it. Jerome Tang’s Wildcats have blown expectations out of the water with a 15-2 start, including 4-1 in Big 12 play. K-State is especially good at forcing turnovers and defending the 3-point line, but can struggle with turnovers on offense. Texas Tech’s best hope in Manhattan might be the possibility of Kansas State overlooking the Red Raiders – Kansas State hosts No. 2 Kansas in the Sunflower Showdown Tuesday night, and follows its game with Texas Tech by traveling to No. 12 Iowa State.

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