Just looking at it on paper, you would think that No. 14 Baylor would steamroll Texas Tech, which is in last place in the Big 12.
But as the saying goes, that’s why they play the games.
Baylor went 2-0 against Texas Tech this year but had to earn both victories. The Bears beat Texas Tech, 54-49, in Lubbock on Feb. 17, and at home, 77-74, on Friday – this after trailing by 12 points in the second half.
Why did Baylor struggle so much in both of those games?
“They got off to a hot start both games, just hitting wide open shots,” Baylor forward Taurean Prince said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We kind of slacked on some defensive assignments, but at the end of the day, close games help the team get better. If you’re in a position like that in March, you know how to climb up out of it, knowing what you need to run offensively and defensively. I think we got better from this game, even though it was a close one.”
Prince had a career-high 24 points, helping the Bears (23-8, 11-7) overcome an unreal shooting performance from Devaugntah Williams, who shot 8-of-9 from three-point range and finished with 28 points. Prince also had nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Nevertheless, Baylor trailed early, prompting head coach Scott Drew to call timeout. Drew wanted to cool Texas Tech off, yes, but he also had a message for his players.
“(He) told us that we got to get on our motor and rebound and contest (shots) or else we’re not going to win at all,” Prince said. “Coach Drew did a great job, especially down the stretch allowing us to pick what defense we wanted to feel most comfortable playing. He ran the offensive sets for us, and we just executed.”
Both teams shot well from the floor, but the game came down to free throws. Baylor shot 18-of-24 (75 percent) from the foul line, while Texas Tech shot just 8-of-19 (42.1 percent).
“That’s what the game comes down to, especially if it’s a close game,” Prince said. “(When) you get fouled and go to the line, you got to make free throws – and that’s something we do as a team after practice. We got to make 16 to 18 out of 20 in order to leave, or else you don’t get to go home. We practice every day at free throws and get better at that. That’s one area of my game I’m trying to get better at as well. We did pretty good in that tonight.”
Baylor needed a win after losing at Texas, 61-59, in overtime. The game was marred by a brief skirmish that resulted in seven ejections with less than two minutes remaining.
“Just two teams competing,” Prince said. “We just wanted to win so bad. Tempers flared. We just wanted to win the game, and (then) that happened. Texas is a good team. They’re long. They block shots obviously. They had a lot of blocked shots on us. Just tempers flared. We just came back, watched film, got better, took it to the hardwood and made sure we wouldn’t lose the game to Texas Tech.”
With the regular season in the books, Baylor now prepares for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments Scott Ferrall asked Prince if it was time to dance.
“Oh, most definitely,” Prince said. “It’s always time to dance, in my mind.”