After earning No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the fifth straight week, Baylor will try to stay unbeaten against a confident Texas Tech team that’s coming off an impressive win over Kansas.
But the Bears will likely have to play Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game against the No. 19 Red Raiders at the Ferrell Center without one of the key players in their eight-man rotation.
Freshman forward Jeremy Sochan sprained his left ankle in the late minutes of the first half of Baylor’s 76-64 win over TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth and has been rehabbing since then.
“We’ll list him day-to-day, but obviously sprained ankles take time,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “A lot of it will depend on how he bounces back and how treatment and recovery goes.”
The Red Raiders (11-3, 1-1) knocked off then-No. 6 Kansas, 75-67, on Saturday in Lubbock despite the absence of their top two scorers. Guard Terrence Shannon is averaging 14.3 points in only six games for the Red Raiders, while guard Kevin McCullar is averaging 13.5 points in 10 games. Both players have been listed as game-time decisions against the Bears (15-0, 3-0).
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But even without Shannon and McCullar, the Red Raiders played outstanding basketball against the Jayhawks as UTEP transfer forward Bryson Williams collected 22 points and eight rebounds while Clarence Nadolny hit 17 points and led the defense with three steals.
“Clarence (Nadolny), the point guard as of now until people come back, had 17 against Kansas, so he played really well and is someone who has been a part of their program and has continued to get better,” Drew said. “(Marcus) Santos-Silva was there and started for them, he’s an older guy. They have Williams, who is somebody who was tremendous at UTEP, and a lot of people knew about him.”
After Chris Beard became Texas’ head coach, Mark Adams was promoted to head coach of the Red Raiders after serving five years as an assistant. The 65-year-old Adams is a Texas Tech graduate who had previously worked as the Red Raiders’ director of basketball operations from 2013-15 under head coach Tubby Smith.
Like Beard’s teams, the Red Raiders have continued to play lockdown defense as they’ve limited teams to a 37.6 field-goal percentage and 58.3 points per game.
“Their toughness carries on in the sense of how they box out, how they crash the glass, how they keep people on the side defensively,” said Baylor guard Adam Flagler. “Everything that they have been doing as a team they’re doing. But this will be a great test. It will be my first time playing against this coach and his new ways of coaching, so it will be exciting.”
Despite the loss of Sochan in the first half, the Bears rallied from a nine-point deficit against TCU early in the second half to finish off the double-digit win.
Flagler was named Big 12 player of the week after scoring 22 points against both the Horned Frogs and in an 84-74 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 4. Flagler nailed six of 10 3-pointers against TCU as he’s continue to find his groove after recovering from a left (non-shooting) hand injury.
“No question early in the year coming off the hand injury that slowed him down,” Drew said. “His teammates have done a great job finding him and getting multiple screens. As the guys have gotten better chemistry playing together, they know how to look for each other.”
After earning Big 12 player of the week last week, Baylor point guard James Akinjo was named newcomer of the week after collecting 27 points and five assists against Oklahoma and 20 points and eight assists against TCU. The Arizona transfer has looked more comfortable directing the team as the season has progressed as he leads the Big 12 with 6.1 assists per game.
“My coaches and my teammates have been doing a great job of putting me in situations that they know I can thrive in,” Akinjo said. “I’ve just been staying ready. Even the time off I spent in Arizona, when I was trying to figure out where I was going to land, I’ve just been working extremely hard, just staying ready.”
Baylor took better care of the ball against the Horned Frogs by cutting turnovers down to 12 after making 19 against Iowa State and 20 against Oklahoma. The Bears didn’t commit any turnovers in the final eight minutes against TCU.
“Well, we stopped sharing it with TCU,” Drew said. “We got a little more greedy by keeping it ourselves. I thought we executed better, we were more patient, and didn’t try to force things. This team when they get challenged usually they’re at their best. They’ve performed when the stakes are at the highest.”
With Sochan questionable for the game, Fairmont State transfer Dale Bonner could see more time in the rotation. Against the Horned Frogs, the junior guard played seven minutes and hit a free throw.
“Against TCU he did a great job,” Drew said. “What’s awesome about Dale is that one of his biggest strengths is he’s a great teammate. No matter if he plays or doesn’t play, he’s always ready when you do put him in.”