Baylor opens Big 12 play with an early test

Posted Monday, Jan. 06, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Big 12 Players of the Week

Player of the Week

G DeAndre Kane, Iowa State: The senior had a season-high 12 assists and 16 points in a win against Northern Illinois and scored 15 points and had six assists in a win at Texas Tech.

Newcomer of the Week

G Marcus Foster, Kansas State: The freshman averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over George Washington and Okla. State.

Key stat

.797The Big 12 winning percentage in nonconference play, the best of any conference.

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Baylor opens its Big 12 season Tuesday night in one of the toughest places at the moment for a visiting team.

No. 9 Iowa State hosts the seventh-ranked Bears at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Coliseum, where Baylor is 0-11. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

Baylor coach Scott Drew said he exchanged playful texts with ISU coach Fred Hoiberg about moving the game to Waco because of intense cold hitting the Midwest.

The wind chill isn’t the only thing concerning Drew. The Cyclones (13-0, 1-0 Big 12) have tied the school record for consecutive wins and rank among the nation’s top 10 in five statistical categories, including ninth in scoring at 87 points per game.

The last time ISU played in a top-10 matchup, it beat Kansas 79-71 in February 2001 in Ames, Iowa.

That’s the score of Baylor’s loss at ISU last February.

“It’s a tough place to play up there,” Drew said. “Not only are they a very good team, but traditionally they’ve been very good at home. We know we have a challenge ahead of us. No matter who they put in the game, they’re capable of scoring and you have to guard them and they can shoot the three, so it stretches the floor and makes it tough defensively.”

The 12-1 Bears’ only blemish this season is a seven-point loss to second-ranked Syracuse in November. Baylor went 3-6 on the road in Big 12 play a year ago.

“It’s what we thought conference was going to be like,” he said. “Each and every game is very close and very hard-fought. If you’re a Big 12 fan, you’re going to have a lot of great games to watch this year. It doesn’t matter who’s on, it should be a highly competitive contest.”

Hoiberg, who is 4-1 against Baylor, has been impressed with the Bears’ start.

“They’re having a heck of a year,” he said. “They’re playing well together. It’s a very, very good team and we have to play a great game to have a chance.”

Culture change at Tech

First-year Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said the toughest thing about resurrecting a program is getting players to believe again.

The Red Raiders (8-6, 0-1) faded down the stretch at home against Iowa State in their Big 12 opener, and Smith detected that his team was lacking the kind of confidence necessary during clutch time.

“We’ve been trying to instill a new culture,” he said. “When you’ve had tough years like we’ve had here at Texas Tech, we’ve got to get kids believing. So we’re trying to get them to eliminate a lot of the mistakes, the doubt that comes across when you tie the game up and you have three straight turnovers at home. And learn how to compete in those situations.”

The team is playing hard, Smith said, and the team’s rebounding advantage against opponents is proof of that, but against stout Big 12 competition teams need complete games to win.

“We’re still learning. We’ve had a lot of [scoring] droughts,” he said. “We have to make those plays. Your concentration has to be better and that’s what we’re working on. We fixed one problem and something else raises its ugly head. You have your work cut out for you. Every night you have to bring it.”

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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