In Baylor’s most recent win over Hardin-Simmons, the Bears came out on top with a 69-point victory, the largest in a game in school history. And now the Bears’ strengthening defense is looking to catch another conference win against rival Oklahoma State.
“They’re so athletic and good in transition when they force turnovers,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “They’ve rebounded well at their defensive end.”
Statistically, OSU is one of the top defensive teams in the Big 12 Conference. They rank third in scoring defense, third in field goal percentage defense, third in blocked shots, third in rebounding defense, third in defensive rebounding percentage, fourth in steals, and fourth in defensive rebounding.
But Baylor has also stepped up its defense in conference play. Baylor leads the Big 12 in scoring defense in conference play, allowing just 57 points per game. They also lead the conference with 39.8 rebounds per game and a 26.7 percent three-point defense. Individually, freshman forward Rico Gathers ranks second in the league with 9.5 rebounds per game in conference play, despite playing just 18.5 minutes per game.
Both teams will have to play a well-rounded game to pull of the victory, because not only are both teams known for efficient defensive plays, they also stack their rosters with top offensive players.
Oklahoma State is the only team in the Big 12 that has four different players ranked among the league’s top 20 in scoring as well as three ranked among the top 10. Junior guard Markel Brown ranks fourth (15.2 ppg) while freshman guard Marcus Smart and sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash are tied for 10th (13.6 ppg). Freshman guard Phil Forte sits at 19th (11.2) in the Big 12 scoring ranks.
However, when Drew sat his top two scorers during the Bears’ game against Hardin-Simmons Saturday, many speculated that it was in preparation for the big game against Oklahoma State. Both, senior guard Pierre Jackson (18.6 ppg) and freshman center Isaiah Austin (14.6 ppg), avoided the two-day turnaround, so they should be rested and ready for the battle tonight. Jackson leads the Big 12 in scoring, Austin ranks fifth, and junior forward Cory Jefferson ranks 12th (13.2 ppg).
To get the win tonight, the Bears need to utilize their rested players by getting the ball to Jackson as soon as possible while also using Austin in the paint and keeping up with Oklahoma’s fast pace in the transition.
“This is a team that has been ranked and there’s a reason they were ranked,” Drew said. “They’re awfully talented. It’s a team that’s deeper than they’ve been in terms of people that can score 20 points on you.”