Posts tagged with Baylor Basketball
Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, the Kansas basketball team opens Big 12 play knowing a win likely would push the Jayhawks to No. 1 in next week’s AP Top 25.
But coach Bill Self and his players also know No. 23 Baylor (10-2) is no pushover, and their sole focus Saturday (3 p.m. tip, CBS) is defeating the Bears, regardless of what that means for their ranking.
Although BU has never won at Allen Fieldhouse in 13 tries, coach Scott Drew’s team comes to Lawrence ranked No. 23 and boasting some enviable numbers:
No. 1 in assists per game (22.7)
No. 5 in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.84)
No. 5 in offensive rebound percentage (42.2%)
No. 7 in steal percentage (12.4%)
Most of the Bears suiting up for this road challenge at KU (11-1) faced the Jayhawks last season — when Kansas swept BU, 3-0. Only Kenny Cherry and Royce O’Neale do not return from Baylor’s eight-man rotation a year ago.
Here are the Bears the Jayhawks will have to keep in check as they open their quest for a 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season crown.
No. 21 — F Taurean Prince | 6-8, 220, sr.
The Big 12’s No. 3 leading scorer, senior Taurean Prince (15.5 points per game this season, tied with West Virginia’s Devin Williams) has put up double figures in 26 of his past 30 games. Now the Bears’ top offensive player, he is 33 points shy of 1,000 career points.
Scored a career-high 30 points in Baylor’s best win of the season, Dec. 6 vs. Vanderbilt. Prince scored 16 of BU’s 18 points in a six-minute span of the first half.
Prince’s 6-foot-11.5 wingspan makes him difficult to deal with on both ends of the floor and helps him average 3.3 offensive rebounds per game (5.9 total) and 1.8 steals.
A 41.6% shooter on the season, Prince will be hungry to bounce back from a poor showing earlier this week: 2-for-12, 6 points vs. Texas Southern.
Prince doesn’t shy away from 3-point shots. He has made 19 of 51 (37.3%) from downtown.
No. 2 — C/F Rico Gathers | 6-8, 275, sr.
A beast of a post player, senior Rico Gathers (14.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 56.1% FGs) is Baylor’s all-time leading rebounder (979) and has 30 career double-doubles.
In 3 BU losses to Kansas last season, Gathers averaged 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds.
In one game last season, Gathers pulled down 28 rebounds. Twenty-eight! Even if they came against Houston-Tillotson, that’s still mighty impressive.
Gathers’ 10.5-inch-long, massive hands help him devour available rebounds. His 32 put-backs on the offensive glass lead Baylor. He ranks No. 3 in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (4.7).
Against a sizable Vandy front court, Gathers shot 5-for-15 but finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out.
With 13 blocks this season, Gathers leads the team.
No. 25 — G Al Freeman | 6-3, 200, soph.
By far Baylor’s best 3-point shooter, sophomore Al Freeman averages 13.2 points, thanks in part to his 44.8% mark from downtown (26 of 58).
Playing a bigger role this season, Freeman has scored in double figures 9 times, compared to 7 total in 2014-15.
Freeman scored a career-high 22 points early in the season, when Baylor lost at Oregon.
He enters the meeting with KU on a hot streak from behind the arc, hitting 7 of 13 in BU’s last 2 games.
No. 11 — PG Lester Medford | 5-10, 175, sr.
Baylor couldn’t have asked for a much smoother transition for senior Lester Medford, who became the new starting point guard this season.
Twelve of Medford’s 18 career starts at PG have come in the past two months, and he enters Big 12 play averaging 6.8 assists per game.
Medford is the only player in the nation who ranks in the top 20 in assists (10th), steals (10th, 2.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (12th, 3.9).
In Baylor’s previous 10 games, Medford has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.5. In that span he has 28 steals, compared to 11 turnovers.
Swiped 5 steals, scored 16 points and dished 5 assists in a BU loss at Texas A&M.
Not a strong shooter, Medford has only made 12 of 39 3-pointers (30.8%) and averages 8.3 points per game.
No. 24 — G/F Ishmail Wainright | 6-5, 230, jr.
Baylor’s glue guy in the starting five, junior Ishmail Wainright averages 6.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists (7th in Big 12).
In his first 2 seasons at Baylor, Wainright only made 5 of 20 from 3-point range. He’s slightly improved this year: 9-for-26 (35%).
Another Bear to watch on the offensive glass, Wainright has 22 offensive boards in 12 games.
No. 5 — F Johnathan Motley | 6-9, 230, soph.
A starter in all 34 games as a red-shirt freshman last season, sophomore Johnathan Motley has thrived off the bench this year, contributing 10.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in only 16.7 minutes.
Long and athletic, Motley’s 7-3.5 wingspan makes him Baylor’s most effective inside scorer, and he shoots 70% on shots at the rim.
Of course, he’s another interior player who likes to attack the glass on offense — 21 offensive rebounds in 12 appearances off the bench.
Motley’s 9 blocked shots are second-most on the team.
No. 3 — PG Jake Lindsey | 6-5, 190, fr.
Medford’s backup, freshman Jake Lindsey only plays 13.2 minutes a game, but does a nice job of filling in (3.3 points, 2.8 assists).
Lindsey has 34 assists and only 7 turnovers this season, giving him a team-best average of 22.6 minutes per turnover.
The young PG has a 4.86 assist-to-turnover ratio.
No. 31 — F Terry Maston | 6-7, 215, soph.
A non-factor as a freshman last season, sophomore Terry Maston has tripled his points and minutes totals from a year ago, and is averaging 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in just 11.7 minutes.
Maston scored a career-high 14 points in BU’s last game, shooting 5-for-8 from the floor.
He’s converting on 56.8% of his shot attempts this year, and thrives at getting to the free-throw line: 28-for-33 (84.8%).
No. 22 — G King McClure | 6-3, 200, fr.
A young backup guard, freshman King McClure is averaging 4.1 points in 13.2 minutes.
King has only played 27 total minutes in Baylor’s past 3 games, but earlier in the season scored 11 points on two occasions, making 3 from downtown in each of those outings.
He’s 11 of 30 (36.7%) from 3-point range this season.
Kansas City, Missouri — When new Iowa State coach Steve Prohm arrived in Ames, Iowa, he inherited a top-10 quality roster with loads of potential.
In order to maximize the Cyclones’ success in 2015-16, Prohm knew he’d have to completely understand how best to utilize multi-talented senior forward Georges Niang. So the former Murray State coach watched a lot of video from the past few seasons, and figured he might as well call up a Niang expert: his ISU predecessor, Fred Hoiberg.
Given Niang’s success under Hoiberg — 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 40-percent three-point shooting last season — Prohm said Tuesday at Big 12 Basketball Media Day, at Sprint Center, he doesn’t want to wreck a good thing.
“He knows how important he is to this team,” Prohm said of Niang. “I do want to challenge him on the defensive end to become a better rebounder, to rebound out of his area and do some things defensively that we need. But offensively, I don't see it changing at all. I just hope he can even excel it even more.”
Learning the league
First-year Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart hasn’t spent too much time considering detailed game plans for the rest of the Big 12. Smart said with the non-conference schedule getting things started, he has focused more on that and establishing a new culture in the first couple weeks of practice.
The former VCU coach admitted, though, there will me an adjustment period for him once league play begins.
“Obviously, the stakes are higher, the crowds are more loud, they're more into the game,” Smart said of road venues he said of conference venues he’ll visit for the first time in 2016. “And certainly, as a new coach in the Big 12, I'm going to have to get to know what this league's all about, particularly on the road.”
Sooners matching experience with youth
Lon Kruger enters this season with the luxury of returning some of the most talented senior guards in the Big 12 — preseason player of the year Buddy Hield and running mate Isaiah Cousins. But the OU coach won’t hesitate to rely on some freshmen in spots, too.
On the wing, Kruger likes promising, versatile rookies Rashard Odomes (6-foot-6) and Christian James (6-4).
“They're very aggressive, physical on the boards,” the OU coach said of the duo. “They rebound the ball well from the wing. They can score. For incoming freshmen, they've been well-coached. They have a good feel for the game, great enthusiasm for working every day, and the real benefit, too, from having Buddy and Isaiah, from a work ethic standpoint, in the gym all the time. And those guys come in and see what they do and fall in line and they'll benefit from that a great deal, too.”
Don’t poke the Bear
As if Baylor forward Rico Gathers wasn’t already enough of an imposing presence on the court, Bears head coach Scott Drew said the 6-foot-8, 275-pound senior has refined his offensive skill set since last season.
Gathers averaged 9.6 points and 10.6 rebounds as a junior, but only made 42.7 percent of his field goals and 57.8 percent of his free throws. As a result, Drew said the big man spent a lot of the offseason in the gymnasium.
“So first and foremost, if he can become a 75-, 80-percent free-throw shooter, his production is going to go way up,” Baylor’s coach said.
“Second thing,” Drew added, “because we have a lot of length in practice, him finishing over length every day is something that will help. His jump shot has improved. It's a lot softer, a lot better rotation.”
Who are these Wildcats?
With eight players gone form last season’s roster and seniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt, along with junior Wesley Iwundu, the only readily recognizable players left, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber hasn’t lost all hope.
In fact, Weber, whose Wildcats finished 15-17 a year ago, is having fun coaching the mostly overhauled Wildcats.
“They haven't been perfect by any means, but I'd say nine out of the first ten days we just coached them,” Weber said. “We didn't have to beg them to go hard or get after them to go hard, so that makes it a lot easier.
“Now you can worry about the stuff you're supposed to worry about, you know, setting up the angle on the screen, the defense, getting in the right position or how you're going to guard something and you're not wasting as much time.”
No defensive adjustments necessary at WVU
College basketball rules changes dominated much of the discussion at media day, and Bob Huggins — whose West Virginia teams have become known for their assertive defense and pressure — isn’t quite sure yet what to make of the removal of the five-second closely guarded rule.
“I’d like to sit here and give you a very intelligent answer, but obviously I can't. So I don't know,” the WVU said, with a wry grin.
Huggins, whose pants decorated with WVU logos were a hit, said he’ll still ask his guards to defend on the ball with pressure, like always.
“Everybody's going to run a quick-hitter into a ball screen anyways, and that's what everybody did against us for the last 30 years, because we tried to not let people run offense,” Huggins said. “So we ended up guarding ball screens or sprints, and that's what's going to happen. I don't think that changes much.”
Forte can’t do everything
There is no question which Cowboy’s name will appear on the proverbial marquee every time Oklahoma State plays this season. However, OSU coach Travis Ford said senior guard Phil Forte III, admittedly a “leading man,” can’t be expected to do it all.
“I think last year we relied way too much on just (LeBryan) Nash and Forte, and that was my fault,” Ford said.
Ultimately, the lack of balance made the Cowboys a less effective team.
“We had a lot of big wins and probably overachieved in a lot of areas,” the OSU coach added of the 18-14 season, “but it caught up to us at the end of the year. It caught up to us.”
Shooters and scorers?
Often sarcastic in entertaining dealings with the media, TCU coach Trent Johnson didn’t disappoint Tuesday morning at Sprint Center.
When a reporter began a question by referencing Johnson’s team full of shooters and scorers, the coach had to stop him right there.
“My team’s full of good shooters and good scorers this year? I don’t know about that,” Johnson said, straight-faced. “Depends on what practice you’re watching.”
Eventually, the coach admitted the Horned Frogs have some experience — juniors Karviar Shepherd and Chris Washburn enter their third year of contributing — and some nights “the ball goes in.”
He said TCU’s ability to get back on defense and limit opponents’ good scorers and shooters would probably determine how successful a season 2015-16 turns out to be.
Rebuilding Red Raiders
Texas Tech hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2009-10. So third-year coach Tubby Smith realizes rebuilding the program won’t be easy in the Big 12.
Smith said the Red Raiders’ annual struggles mean they have to change the culture.
“Although we have great fans and great student support on our campus, and in Lubbock in general, there are a lot of great fans, we still have to continue to grow the program when it comes to recruiting to keep improving,” Smith said, “whether it's facilities or other areas. We know that the competition is stiff no matter where in trying to influence or persuade down the middle to attend the university.”
Early in Big 12 play, the Kansas Jayhawks got a glimpse of what the rest of the conference soon would learn: Scott Drew has a tough, talented team this season at Baylor.
KU won its conference opener for the 24th consecutive year back in January at Waco, Texas, but the Jayhawks escaped with a 56-55 decision at the Ferrell Center only after making some big shots late and figuring out ways to exploit BU’s half-court zone at times in the second half.
Since then, Baylor has moved up to No. 16 in the nation and comes into Saturday’s rematch at Allen Fieldhouse 18-6 overall and 6-5 in the Big 12, after losing its first two league games.
The Bears entered this week as one of the conference’s hottest teams, having won 5 of their last 6, but then they stumbled at home, with a 74-65 loss to Oklahoma State. Baylor allowed OSU to make 9 of 24 3-pointers in the loss, while the home team only hit 3 of 15 from deep.
Here are some trends from the Bears this season:
Baylor has lost second-chance points in each of the last 5 games after not doing so in any of its first 19 games, but the Bears are 3-2 in those games. (BU outscored KU 13-8 in second-chance points last time.)
Baylor is 18-3 this season when scoring 60-plus points, and 0-3 when being held under 60 (as the Bears were vs. KU).
Baylor is 14-1 this season when recording 13-plus assists and 4-5 when recording fewer than 13 (10 assists vs. KU).
Baylor is 1 of 9 Division I teams to hold all opponents under 75 points this season. (If the Bears can keep that streak alive at the fieldhouse, that stat would look even more impressive.)
As a refresher, here are the Bears No. 8 Kansas (20-4, 9-2) has to worry about as the Jayhawks continue their chase for an 11th straight league championship.
No. 1 — Kenny Chery, 5-11, senior G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 25 points, 8/14 FGs, 4/7 3s, 5/5 FTs, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 TOs in 35 minutes
He gave KU issues all night in the first meeting. You can bet his stat line will be memorized by the guys responsible for guarding him in the rematch.
In his last 10 games, Chery is averaging 14.7 points, after scoring 8.2 a game before that. Plantar fasciitis forced him to miss some games early in the season but he now looks back at full strength.
With 4 seconds left against Iowa State back on Jan. 14, he hit the game-winner in a 74-73 Bears victory.
Chery scored 19 points in the second half while hitting all 5 of his 3-point tries in a Jan. 31 beating of Texas.
Late in games this season, he makes a point to have the ball in his hands when the other team is fouling. He has made 23 of 26 free throws this season in the final five minutes of action.
Oklahoma State is one of the few Big 12 teams to figure out how to shut Chery down. He missed all 4 of his 3-pointers in the Bears’ loss to OSU and only scored 9 points in 30 minutes.
In 11 Big 12 games, he’s averaging 13.7 points and 3.6 assists, and has made a team-leading 21 of 54 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: Just 18.3% of his shots so far have come at the rim. Chery has taken 66 2-point jumpers and has made 39.4% of those tries (he has improved by more than 10% in that category since last facing KU). He’s 33-for-86 from deep (38.4%).
No. 2 — Rico Gathers, 6-8, junior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 9 points, 3/10 FGs, 3/4 FTs, 14 rebounds (9 offensive), 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO in 29 minutes
Just a reminder: Gathers is an absolute beast of a physical specimen and has broken out this season as one of the Big 12’s best interior players.
His 16-point, 16-rebound game against Oklahoma State marked:
his 20th double-figure rebounding game of the season, 34th of his career
his 13th double-figure scoring game of the season, 27th of his career
his Big 12-leading 13th double-double of the season (third in a row), 20th of his career
and — probably most impressively — his fourth straight game with 15-plus rebounds (the 2nd-most ever by a Baylor player, behind only Jerome Lambert’s, 15)
Bill Self said Gathers deserves to be in the conversation for the Big 12’s Player of the Year.
In Big 12 play, he averages 11.2 points, a league-best 13.5 rebounds (better by 4.0 a game than No. 2 rebounder Devin Williams of WVU) and 5.7 offensive rebounds a game.
*— hoop-math.com update: Shocking news! Gathers leads Baylor in put-backs. Actually, the number is kind of incredible. He has scored 66 put-backs this season. Sixty-six. A whopping 39.6% of his shots at the rim come on put-backs.
No. 00 — Royce O’Neale, 6-6, senior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 3 points, 1/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 0/1 FTs, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover in 27 minutes
The Jayhawks did a nice job of turning him into a non-factor the first time around.
Of late, O’Neale is averaging 14.0 points in his past 4 games, when he has connected on 19 of 34 shots since being held scoreless at OSU.
He was a big part of Baylor’s road win at West Virginia last week, contributing 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
In conference games, he’s averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 boards, plus 3.5 assists. He’s shooting 44.6% in the league and has made 11 of 28 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: O’Neale scores mostly at the rim (42 field goals) and from downtown (30 3-pointers). He makes 64.6% of his takes to the rim.
No. 35 — Jonathan Motley, 6-9, freshman F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/0 FTs, 8 rebounds, 1 assists, 3 blocks, 2 TOs in 31 minutes
Another guy who didn’t accomplish much offensively vs. Kansas back in the first week of January, the long red-shirt freshman has made an impact defensively, with 35 blocks in his past 15 games.
Foul trouble early in games have limited Motley’s effectiveness. He averages 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds when he makes it to halftime with one or no fouls.
When he has at least 2 fouls entering the break, he only averages 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.
Motley has even been more effective scoring the ball when he stays out of foul trouble: 35.3% when committing 2-plus fouls in the first half vs. 48% shooting when avoiding that. He had 2 first-half fouls vs. Kansas in Waco.
In Big 12 play, Motley averages 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds, and has made 43.6% of his shots, while missing both of his 3-point attempts.
— hoop-math.com update: Motley loves finishing inside, where he has 54 field goals at the rim. Keep him away from point-blank range and he makes just 26.2% of his 2-point jumpers and 23.1% of his 3-pointers.
No. 11 — Lester Medford, 5-10, junior G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 8 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 TO in 28 minutes
In his first 3 conference games, which included the loss to KU, he only had 1 assist against 5 turnovers. But in his last 8 games, Medford has 34 assists and 15 turnovers. Over the last 6 games, he has twice led Baylor in scoring and has 21 assists in that stretch.
But Medford played 33 minutes in the Bears’ home loss to OSU and only scored 1 point, missing all 5 of his field goals.
In 11 Big 12 starts, Medford averages 8.0 points and has been most effective as a 3-point marksman, hitting 19 of 43 (44.2%).
— hoop-math.com update: Of Baylor’s rotation players, Medford spends the least time taking shots in between the rim and the 3-point arc. Just 14.7% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, while 31.4% have come at the rim and a the majority, 53.8%, have come from long distance.
No. 21 — Taurean Prince, 6-7, junior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 8 points, 3/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 0 TOs in 27 minutes
Baylor easily could start him, and he could probably start for any team in the Big 12. But Drew uses him as a guy he knows he can get production from off the bench.
Prince scored 20 points in the loss to OSU earlier this week, when he had his team-leading 18th double-figure scoring game of the season. He has scored 10-plus in a career high 8 straight games.
On the season, he averages 12.6 points a game, which ranks first in the power-five conferences among reserves.
Prince averages 13.6 points and 5.6 boards in Big 12 action, makes 44.8% of his shots, and has made 19 of 56 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: He can create his own easy points. Only 52.1% of Prince’s 48 buckets at the rim have come off assists. One of his methods? Crashing the offensive glass. He has 19 put-backs.
No. 25 — Al Freeman, 6-3, freshman G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs in 9 minutes
At times, he has proven an effective scorer off the BU bench. But the first game vs. KU certainly wasn’t one of those.
Freeman has scored 7 points or more 11 times and when he does, Baylor is 10-1.
The red-shirt freshman is typically the first guard off the bench for the Bears, and he scored 11 in BU’s key road win against West Virginia last weekend.
Still, he’s only averaging 3.1 points in 16.1 minutes in Big 12 play. He has made 5 of his 12 3-pointers in the conference.
— hoop-math.com update: Most of his shot attempts, 52.0% actually, come from long range. However, Freeman has connected on just 31.5% of his 35 3-point attempts.
The Big 12 grind almost never lets up. After going 1-1 in a two-game road stretch, with a loss at Oklahoma State and a win at Texas Tech, No. 8-ranked Kansas basketball next must deal with No. 16 Baylor.
Coach Bill Self spoke with local media Thursday afternoon in advance of KU’s top-20 showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Bears fell at home to KU by a single point, 56-55, on Jan. 7.
Here are some highlights from the Q & A:
• Baylor already had Self’s attention before the Bears won convincingly at West Virginia like the Bears did. BU usually plays pretty well at Allen Fieldhouse, even though KU has won those games. They’re capable of beating anybody.
• The Bears’ zone is different. You have to get in gaps and attack the middle of it, which is the key to attacking any zone. But they pressure a lot out on the wings, which is a little different. You still have to make some shots.
• Wayne Selden Jr. has played very well of late. It’s misleading, though. Selden has shot the ball well from deep all year long. His percentage is way down from inside the arc. Selden has shot the ball from deep the past few games — just as well as Brannen Greene. … Selden just needs confidence and he needs to get reps in the gym to finish more inside. You just have to grind through it.
Seeing Selden’s build and athleticism, he should be a better finisher in close to the basket. Right now he’s at a point where he can become more complete, because he can use his shot to get space and drive.
• Self has talked about the Jayhawks having multiple personalities. The past couple of games they have had a great half and a poor or awful half. A lot of that is youth. Some of that can be controlled and they need to be more consistent. It can change from timeout to timeout almost. But when they’ve played really well it’s been very rewarding, too.
They can play at a very high level or a very low level.
• Kansas actually has a decent in-between team, as far as shooting. The Jayhawks can make mid-range jumpers and long 2-point jumpers. Right now the game of college basketball is more about taking 3-pointers or getting layups.
Frank Mason III is a pretty good in-between guy and Greene can shoot it form three, too. And Kelly Oubre Jr. and Selden aren’t bad either.
It’s important because if you can hit those shots you can exploit defenses.
• Self thinks Rico Gathers has played himself into the conversation for Big 12 player of the year, based on his strength inside and his rebounding. KU needs to do better on him, and you have to try and keep him off the offensive glass.
• Down at BU, Self thought KU didn’t attack the zone very well at all in the first half. The Jayhawks have to get the ball inside and exploit the zone when they can.
• Self knew Jerry Tarkanian well and he was a regular on the legendary coach’s radio show. They talked “ball” then, and when Self was at Illinois and “Tark” was retired, Self had him come out there and observe some things.
He was unique in being very complimentary of other coaches. When Self was at Tulsa, his last year they lost five games, all one-possession games. Three of those losses were to Tarkanian’s Fresno State team. “Tark” came into the Tulsa locker room after one of those games and gushed about how good Tulsa was.
• Self has “been working” on what KU will do about the news he learned yesterday of assistant coach Jerrance Howard pleading guilty to misdemeanor drug possession in Illinois' Peoria County last summer.
“I am disappointed, but on one front. I didn’t know about it.” Self said he loves the guy, but they will handle it like they should.
Something more will be released today.
• Perry Ellis needs three points to reach 1,000 for his career. It is a great accomplishment. Not as many kids do that anymore because few stick around for all four years. “I hope it happens early in the first half on Saturday.”
• Cliff Alexander got his first Big 12 start at Texas Tech. The freshman big man threw two “really bad passes” in the first couple of minutes. Overall, he did fine. KU needed more girth, a bigger presence than what Jamari Traylor is able to bring.
Alexander will be in the starting lineup moving forward as long as nothing changes. But you never know.
The change in the lineup didn’t have to do with Traylor. KU just needed more of a presence inside. A rim protector and defensive rebounder.
• KU needs to throw it inside more and be passers out of that. They don’t have to be scorers down low, even if Self would prefer to play that way. Alexander is a presence, physically, so the coach hopes he can play 25 minutes a game and put up numbers. If that’s the case, KU will get better.
• Kansas has been very good from 3-point range, and Selden and Greene have a lot to do with that. And Oubre and Mason haven’t been great from deep lately.
It hasn’t surprised Self, but he has been surprised by some of those stretches, like making six of seven or eight straight.
You shouldn’t evaluate your team by if you make shots you play well, if you don’t you play poorly. No one envisions you’ll shoot 50 percent from 3-point range and hit 10 or 11.
• Kansas has become an average rebounding team in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks have struggled the most on allowing too many offensive rebounds. BU, arguably because of Gathers, is as good an offensive rebounding team as there might be in America.
• Coaching Ellis is great. His personality has come out in the last year or so, and “he’s a stud.” He’s a great ambassador for the school and the program.
• There has to be 10 or 12 guys in the Big 12 that deserve to be in the conversation for first-team All-Big 12. Including Mason and Ellis. OU’s Buddy Hield, Iowa State’s Georges Niang and Gathers, among others all immediately come to mind.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Baylor, rebounding and playing inside-out
Given the depth and quality of the Big 12 this season, it somehow seems appropriate Kansas will begin its conference title defense on the road against a top-25 team.
These are the exact types of games the Jayhawks will have to win in order to extend their regular-season championship run to 11 years in a row.
For No. 12 KU, the journey begins Wednesday night at No. 21 Baylor.
Scott Drew, who is 3-13 against Bill Self’s Jayhawks since taking over in Waco, Texas, has coached BU to 12 straight victories at the Ferrell Center. Wouldn’t you know it, the Bears’ last home loss came to Kansas on Feb. 4, 2014.
Baylor has only surrendered 56.1 points a game this season (13th in the nation) and has a field-goal percentage defense of 37.7% (28th nationally). What’s more, the Bears have held their opponents to an average of 13.0 points below their season scoring averages.
In BU’s Big 12 opener, though, the previously stingy Bears lost 73-63 at Oklahoma (2-0 in Big 12 after throttling Texas 70-49 on Big Monday).
It’s time to meet the Baylor players Kansas will have to hold back.
No. 35 — Jonathan Motley, 6-9, freshman F
The 230-pound redshirt freshman is a load inside and capable of doing serious damage on the offensive glass (see: 8 offensive boards vs. Texas A&M on Dec. 9).
Motley is said to have added 20 pounds of muscle while sitting out the 2013-14 season — a year he spent battling Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers at Baylor practices.
The strategy (one rarely seen in major Division I college basketball) seems to have paid off. The first-year forward averages 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on the season. But he has come on much stronger of late, leading Baylor in scoring in four of the last five games. In that five-game stretch, Motley is averaging 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.
This followed back-to-back games in early December when he fouled out and went scoreless.
In his Big 12 debut this past weekend, Motley scored 24 points and hit 9 of 12 field goals in a loss at Oklahoma.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Motley loves finishing inside, where he has 37 field goals at the rim. Keep him away from point-blank range and he makes just 24.4% of his 2-point jumpers and 25% of his 3-pointers.
No. 00 — Royce O’Neale, 6-6, senior F
Both Baylor and O’Neale benefited when the forward decided to transfer and become a Bear after playing two seasons at Denver.
He has scored 1,069 points in his career, with 676 rebounds, 329 assists and 134 steals.
As a junior, O’Neale became the first player in Baylor history to produce 200-plus rebounds and 100-plus assists in the same season, and though he doesn’t play in the backcourt he ranked second on the team with 2.9 assists.
Speaking of guard skills, he has made four or more 3-pointers in three games this season.
Just over a week ago, O’Neale (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists) went for a career-high with 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting (5-for-6 from deep) against Norfolk State.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Gathers scores mostly at the rim (20 field goals) and from downtown (19 3-pointers). He makes 66.7% of his takes to the rim.
No. 2 — Rico Gathers, 6-8, junior F
No, that’s not a Baylor football defensive end. That’s BU’s powerfully-built, 275-pound power forward.
Gathers nearly averages a double-double — 9.6 points, 10.6 rebounds — now that he’s a Baylor starter, as a junior. A monster in the paint, and at times impossible to block out, he’s averaging 4.9 offensive rebounds a game — second to Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney in that category.
According to sports-reference.com, the beastly forward controls 20.3% of available offensive rebounds. That’s second in the nation, to Nevada’s AJ West (22.2%).
Gathers’ six double-doubles this season lead the Big 12 and he averages one rebound every 2.8 minutes in his career.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Little surprise here, but Gathers leads Baylor in put-backs. He has scored 27 times on the offensive glass this season (Motley has 15 put-backs) and makes 50% of his put-back tries at the rim.
No. 11 — Lester Medford, 5-10, junior G
A junior-college transfer, Medford is similar in size and ability to fellow backcourt mate Kenny Chery. He started five games for Chery when the incumbent guard hurt his foot and dished 30 assists, against seven turnovers.
The combo guard averages 4.1 assists per game (fifth in the Big 12) to go with his 8.3 points.
A double-digit scorer in six games this season, Medford also mixes it up defensively, with 1.7 steals (tied for fifth in the Big 12 with Frank Mason III).
He has hit 17 of his 50 3-point attempts this season (34%), but is coming off a 3-for-6 outing at OU.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Of Baylor’s rotation players, Medford spends the least time taking shots in between the rim and the 3-point arc. Just 14.8% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, while 35.2% have come at the rim and a whopping 50% have come from long distance.
No. 1 — Kenny Chery, 5-11, senior G
Baylor’s primary distributor dishes 4.6 assists per game to go with 8.2 points.
Since missing five consecutive starts (coming off the bench in one) with planter fasciitis, the senior from Montreal has set up his fellow Bears to the tune of 6.8 assists a game in his last four starts, compared to 2.0 turnovers a game.
The point guard channeled his inner scorer at South Carolina, where he poured in 18 of his 20 in the second half to help Baylor win on the road.
Last season, Chery’s .879 free-throw percentage led the Big 12, and he has made 12 of 15 (80 percent) so far as a senior, playing in nine games.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Just 18.1% of his shots so far have come at the rim. Chery has taken 25 2-point jumpers and is making just 28.6% of those tries. He’s 12-for-34 from deep.
No. 21 — Taurean Prince, 6-7, junior F
A starter for five games this season while Chery recovered, he has easily transitioned into a stellar sixth man. Prince’s 12.0 points per game and 21 3-pointers lead the Bears. He has made that many bombs on just 39 attempts — giving him the Big 12’s top percentage of 53.8%.
With nine double-digit scoring games, he leads Baylor (Gathers, Medford and Motley all have six such performances).
Prince played 30 minutes at Oklahoma, and shot the ball well — 6-for-12 from the floor, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range.
Overall, he has made 50 of 104 shots (48.1%) while providing instant offense.
— hoop-math.com nugget: He can create his own easy points. Only 50% of Prince’s shots at the rim come off assists. His method? Crashing the offensive glass. He has 11 put-backs.
No. 25 — Al Freeman, 6-3, freshman G
Another redshirt freshman (he missed eight weeks with a broken wrist last year), Freeman has scored double-digits off the bench in three of BU’s past five games.
But at Oklahoma, Drew only played Freeman 16 minutes and he went 0-for-3 with one point.
He has yet to start, but averages 6.5 points in 19.3 minutes and has reached the foul line (20-for-29) more often than starting guards Medford and Chery.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Most of his shot attempts, 55.2% actually, come from long range. However, Freeman has connected on just 29.7% of his 3-pointers.
Before the season began — and, really, as recent as a couple of weeks ago — Baylor University's men's basketball team figured to be one of the Big 12 programs capable of challenging league favorites Oklahoma State and Kansas. Or, at the very least, the Bears could make things difficult for the league's elite.
Then conference play began for BU like a smack to the face. After starting the season 12-1, Baylor has dropped three of its last four games, which coincided with the beginning of Big 12 play.
A glance at the conference standings shows Kansas alone at the top, with a 4-0 record, while Baylor is next to last, in ninth (ahead of only 0-5 TCU) with a 1-3 mark.
Back in December, long before their recent slide, the Bears beat Kentucky on a neutral floor. However, they lost to the other ranked teams they faced this season: Syracuse (at the Maui Invitational), at Iowa State and their last game, at home against Oklahoma.
BU's back-to-back losses this past week at Texas Tech and vs. OU dropped the Bears 12 spots in the new AP poll, to No. 24.
In the last seven seasons, Baylor is 20-32 on the road in Big 12 play. So one would figure the last place the Bears would want to play next, given their slump and road woes, is Allen Fieldhouse.
Bad news, Bears. Coach Scott Drew brings his team to Lawrence tonight to face No. 8 KU (13-4, 4-0).
Although Baylor has won two of its last three meetings with Kansas, that success didn't come on the road. If the Bears want to achieve a program first and beat Kansas in Lawrence, where they're 0-11, they'll need productive nights from every one of their top eight players.
Cory Jefferson, No. 34
6-9, 220, jr. forward
A fifth-year senior, Jefferson has emerged as Baylor's most reliable scorer. He has reached double figures in 21 of his previous 24 games (dating back to last season) and has 17 double-doubles in his career, with six coming this season.
Baylor is 35-9 all-time when Jefferson reaches double digits in points, and he averages 13.1 a game this season on 53.1-percent shooting, to go with 8.4 rebounds.
Kenny Cherry, No. 1
5-11, 180, jr. guard
The lead guard contributes 11.9 points a game, but his play-making is even more valuable for Baylor. While Cherry has 16 three-pointers on 51 tries, he leads the team with 5.1 assists an outing.
For 12 straight games, Cherry's assists numbers have outweighed his turnover totals. In the past six games, his assist-to-turnover ratio sits at 28-to-6.
Isaiah Austin, No. 21
7-1, 225, so. center
The largest man in a Baylor uniform does some of his work inside, but he likes to drift out for jumpers, too, and has even taken 10 threes this season, hitting three of them.
Austin wears a prosthetic right eye after his retina detached when he was in junior high, but the rest of his body and his wealth of ability more than make up for that loss. The 7-footer averages 10.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.
In just his second season with Baylor, Austin already ranks sixth in program history with 106 blocks (which ties him with Willie Sublett).
The big man has scored at least 10 points in 10 of his last 11 starts.
Gary Franklin, No. 4
6-2, 190, sr. guard
At 6.6 points a game, Franklin doesn't make a ton of baskets, but chances are when he does it will be from three-point range. A whopping 79 of his 100 career field goals as a member of the Bears have been three-pointers.
Franklin has proven himself as a consistent threat from behind the arc. Going back over his past 44 games, he has made 40 percent of his threes (54 of 135) and he is 27 for 68 this season.
Like most of us hope to achieve, Franklin is getting better with age. He has five double-digit scoring outings in his last 13 games after achieving that only twice in his previous 68 appearances for Baylor.
Royce O'Neale, No. 00
6-6, 220, jr. forward
A transfer from Denver, O'Neale has started the last 10 games for Baylor.
He's averaging 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists. While O'Neale makes 56.5 percent of his field goals, he's a bad free-throw shooter, at 53.2 percent.
O'Neale's ball-handling certainly can't be blamed for Baylor's recent slump, though. In BU's past six games, he has 17 assists against three turnovers.
Brady Heslip, No. 5
6-2, 180, sr. guard
He puts the shooting in shooting guard. Heslip plays 21.9 minutes a game, but he comes off the bench firing, and his accuracy has a lot to do with Baylor's spot as the top three-point shooting team in the Big 12 (39.3 percent).
The Bears' best three-point marksman, Heslip averages 10.8 points a game this season, and has drained 46 of 99 from downtown (46.5 percent). In fact, he is Baylor's career three-point shooting percentage leader at 42.9.
Fifteen times this season, Heslip has hoisted at least three three-pointers, and in 14 of those games he hit at least two from deep.
In the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Helip cashed in nine from long range to lead Baylor to the Sweet 16.
Taurean Prince, No. 35
6-7, 210, so. forward
In Baylor's lone Big 12 victory, over TCU, Prince scored a career high 23 points. He's averaging 8.5 points and 3.4 rebounds this season without starting a single game.
In his last six games, Prince totaled 82 points on just 50 shot attempts. The efficient forward tends to start hot, too. In his last five games he has made 17 of his 25 field goals before halftime.
Rico Gathers, No. 2
6-8, 270, so. forward
Baylor's second-best rebounder, Gathers averages 7.7 boards a game. Offensively, he contributes 7.7 points on 53.6-percent shooting (45-for-84).
During Baylor's last 10 games, he's averaging 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds, and Gathers has posted double figures in six of his last eight games.
His 60 offensive rebounds lead Baylor, the top team on the offensive glass in the Big 12 (14.4 a game, 43.5 offensive rebounding percentage).