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Feb 5, 2024 2:20 am

No. 15 Texas Tech, No. 18 Baylor collide in tough Big 12

Nunn

Life in the Big 12 doesn’t allow for a lot of time to dwell on disappointment or bask in the glow of a win, and that’s a test that Texas Tech and Baylor will both encounter Tuesday in another Top 25 matchup in arguably the toughest league in the country.

The No. 15 Red Raiders head to Waco to take on the No. 18 Bears with both teams coming off games decided in the final seconds on Saturday.

Texas Tech (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) dropped its second game in a row for the first time this season with a 75-72 setback against Cincinnati. Baylor (16-5, 5-3) avoided a fourth league loss by four points or fewer in the last five when Jayden Nunn’s length-of-the-court drive and basket with two seconds left secured a 70-68 triumph over Iowa State.

Those outcomes left the Red Raiders and Bears in a second-place tie in the Big 12 (with Iowa State), just half a game behind Kansas and Houston.

That means the stakes are high on Tuesday, but that tends to be the case in every Big 12 game this season when almost every game is decided at the wire.

There is also an intriguing sub-plot with first-year Red Raiders coach Grant McCasland set to face his alma mater for the first time and also match wits with Baylor’s Scott Drew after serving as a Bears’ assistant from 2011-16.

Drew wasn’t around to see the dramatic finish to his team’s win on Saturday after he was ejected for the first time in his career. But he liked the grit his team showed, although squandering a comfortable double-digit halftime lead led to the Cyclones having a chance to win. Since a 3-0 start to the Big 12 season, Baylor has dropped two games in overtime and another at Texas on a last-second shot.

“We have not played our best basketball,” Drew said. “Offensively and defensively, we haven’t had a 40-minute game when we’ve been great and that’s what you get with a younger team.”

The Red Raiders are the opposite with a roster full of transfer portal additions built around sophomore star Pop Isaacs, whose 20.5 points a game in league play is the best in the Big 12.

Isaacs gave Texas Tech a late lead against Cincinnati but his missed shot in the closing seconds allowed the Bearcats to escape and hand the Red Raiders their first home loss this season.

Texas Tech has been one of the best offensive teams in the Big 12 but struggled in the second half against Cincinnati, shooting just 34.4 percent from the floor and missing 7 of 8 3-point attempts.

“I loved our scrap,” McCasland said. “It was a tough, physical game where we put ourselves in position to win despite not playing great offensively. We didn’t back down.”

Backing down won’t be an option for either team in a game pitting two of the league’s best offensive teams. Baylor averages 84 points per game and the Red Raiders put up 77.

Ja’Kobe Walter is the Bears’ leading scorer with 14.5 points a game, while RayJ Dennis provides 13.4.

Besides Isaacs, who averages 17.4 points overall, Joe Toussaint chimes in with 12.5 points a game and 89 assists.

–Field Level Media

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