Baylor’s ability to win close games is a big reason it’s on the verge of a third consecutive 20-win season.
After pulling out a pair of late victories, the No. 22 Bears might be in for an easier time while trying for a fifth straight home win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night in a Big 12 matchup.
Baylor (19-5, 6-4) has won four of five, but it hasn’t been easy. Despite leading for most of the game, the Bears needed a tip-in by Ekpe Udoh with 1.3 seconds left to beat Missouri 64-62 at home Saturday. That came after Udoh’s hook shot with 26 seconds remaining gave Baylor a 55-53 win at Nebraska on Wednesday.
“One thing about the Big 12 is that you are going to get a lot of great games and you are going to get a lot of great endings,” Bears coach Scott Drew said.
Baylor was 14-23 in games decided by five points or less during Drew’s six previous seasons. However, the Bears are 6-2 in such contests this season, thanks to play of veterans like juniors Udoh (13.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game) and LaceDarius Dunn (18.7 ppg), and senior Tweety Carter (16.1 ppg, 6.1 assists per game).
“It talks about the leadership and the upperclassmen making sure that we don’t give up,” Drew said. “Some teams fold and other teams persevere and fight back, and I think our leadership has allowed us to do that.”
That ability to come through in the clutch helped the Bears overcome 13 turnovers and a 41.7-percent shooting effort against Missouri. They shot 40.0 percent against Nebraska, but managed to outrebounded the Cornhuskers and Tigers by a combined 74-54.
“We won the way we wanted - with rebounds and defense,” Drew said.
Drew also knows the importance of getting quality play out of guys like Udoh and Dunn. Udoh had just six points Saturday, but recorded his third game-winning shot this season.
“Ekpe doesn’t mind having a lot of pressure on him, and he performs well under it,” Drew said of Udoh, who in his first season since transferring from Michigan already broke the school’s single-season record for blocked shots with 100.
Dunn, second in the Big 12 in scoring, is averaging 21.3 points on 51.1 percent shooting in four career games against Texas Tech.
Though the Bears fell 83-76 at Texas Tech in the teams’ last meeting Feb. 7, 2009, they haven’t lost to the Red Raiders at the Ferrell Center since March 2, 2005. Baylor is averaging 75.8 points on 47.9 percent shooting during its four-game home winning streak against Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders have struggled away from home in conference play, allowing 84.2 points per game while posting a 1-4 Big 12 road mark.
Like Baylor, Texas Tech has endured a pair of tight contests heading into this game. After winning 72-71 at Oklahoma last Tuesday, the Red Raiders lost 67-65 at home to Texas A&M on Saturday.
John Roberson had 22 points and Mike Singletary added 17, but a 10-2 Aggies’ run erased a four-point second-half lead for Texas Tech.
Roberson (15.4 ppg) is averaging 24.0 points in his last three games, but 7.0 on 5 of 20 shooting in two career games at Baylor.
Texas Tech, 1-3 against ranked opponents this season, will host Baylor on March 2.