In a league where the shelf life on celebrating success is briefer than ever, 15th-ranked Texas Tech had to kick into turn-the-page gear quickly Thursday after beating No. 4 Texas on Wednesday.
While that might seem easier said than done after its first road victory against a top-five opponent in program history, the next test on the immediate horizon is forcing the Red Raiders to lock in.
Fresh off their win in Austin, the Red Raiders host No. 2 Baylor on Saturday in a Big 12 game in Lubbock. It will be the teams’ first against each other with both ranked in the top 15.
“Our guys are really happy, but this is an 80-minute week for us,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said shortly after his team used Mac McClung’s long-range jump shot in the closing seconds to top Texas 79-77. “We didn’t set this team up to win a game in Austin. We set this team up to be part of the fight in March. Baylor will be a great challenge, but our guys will be up to it.”
That challenge is akin to the next domino falling for Texas Tech (11-3, 4-2 Big 12) in a schedule that has taken a quantum leap in terms of strength this week.
The Bears (11-0, 4-0 Big 12) have been off for several days after their game against West Virginia was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns in the Mountaineers’ program. Baylor’s last outing was Jan. 9, when the Bears throttled TCU 67-49 in Fort Worth, Texas, for its fourth league win by double digits.
Baylor needed a strong second half to stay unbeaten after the Horned Frogs grabbed a narrow halftime lead. The Bears missed nine of 10 3-pointers in the first half before pumping in 5-for-9 from deep to race to the win.
Jared Butler scored 28 points in that victory and ranks third in the league with 16.4 points a game, while MaCio Teague is sixth at 15.6. Baylor leads the Big 12 with 89 points a game and is the league’s best shooting team at 50.9 percent overall, as well as from outside the arc (42.8 percent).
That sets up an interesting matchup against the Red Raiders, who can stake a claim as the Big 12’s best defensive crew. Texas Tech is allowing a league-low 59.4 points a game and opponents are shooting a paltry 38.6 percent from the field, which ranks second in the Big 12.
Where the Red Raiders have taken major strides lately is on the offensive end, and McClung has been at the eye of the storm. After a shooting swoon early in conference play, McClung is averaging 19.3 points a game in the last four outings and as Wednesday showed, he has stepped into a role as Texas Tech’s go-to threat when the game is on the line.
“Mac has the courage to take those shots,” Beard said. “He’s a fun guy to coach.”
As McClung has warmed up, so have the Red Raiders. They have scored 77 points or more in their last five outings since averaging only 63 in the first two league outings.
The Bears will be a different hurdle, though. As good as Baylor has been offensively, its defense is plenty stout, too. Baylor is right behind Texas Tech in scoring defense (61.2 ppg) and leads the Big 12 in steals (9.6 per game).
The Bears notched a sweep of Texas Tech last season for the first time since 2015 and limited the Red Raiders to a season-low 52 points in a victory in Lubbock.
–Field Level Media