Baylor Rights the Ship, Not About To Collapse AgainPosted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2012
After losing ground in the Big 12 title race by losing to Kansas and Missouri in the span of five days last week, Baylor got back to the basics on Tuesday night in a 77-65 win at Oklahoma. This didn’t look like the same team that lost the rebounding battle in its two previous games, and it didn’t look like the team that showed serious several defensive deficiencies. Instead, the Bears outlasted a pesky Sooner squad by refocusing and playing tougher basketball. Early in the game, Perry Jones looked like a completely different player as he brought more aggression and assertiveness against a decent group of bigs. Thanks to Pierre Jackson‘s penetration skills, Jones got a lot of high-percentage looks and converted nine of 15 field goal attempts on the way to a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds). That’s the key for Baylor: Great guard play, team ball movement and a big game from Jones.
This was a vintage performance from Baylor offensively, but Scott Drew‘s team’s new commitment to defense and the boards Tuesday night made all the difference. And that’s why any talk of a Baylor collapse this season is unfounded, even after two losses to the league’s best teams last week. Oklahoma’s lack of scorers and three-point shooters kept it from pulling the upset, but the Sooners’ tough night from the perimeter had a lot to do with Baylor’s defense. The Bears’ guards forced Steven Pledger to settle for a lot of threes, and they got a little lucky when Andrew Fitzgerald missed several gimmes in the first half. Romero Osby did his work on the boards, but he’s one of the better individual rebounders in the conference. Otherwise, as a team, Baylor did a better job limiting Oklahoma’s damage on the boards with a +4 margin overall.
Now two games out of first place, Baylor should roll through its next three games versus Texas, at Texas A&M and at Oklahoma State. The Aggies are playing better, sure, but that’s a game Baylor can’t afford to lose. If they make it through the next few weeks unscathed, they will have a chance for revenge against Kansas (February 8) and at Missouri (February 11) in consecutive contests. That’s the stretch that will make or break Baylor’s Big 12 title chances. At this point, it likely needs to win both of those games to have a reasonable shot. Baylor may not have a leg up in the Big 12 anymore, but Tuesday’s victory is encouraging because of how Drew’s team won the game. They defended well, won the rebounding margin and, most importantly, fed Perry Jones and the rest of the bigs for easy buckets underneath. When the offense runs through Jones, Quincy Miller, Anthony Jones, and Quincy Acy, this team can beat anybody.