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No. 21 Baylor looks to keep moving in right direction, visits Texas Tech

Jan 7, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears guard Keyonte George (1) scores a layup past Kansas State Wildcats forward Keyontae Johnson (11) during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

After losing its first three Big 12 games for the first time in 17 years, No. 21 Baylor has bounced back and is looking for its third straight victory when it visits Texas Tech on Tuesday night at Lubbock, Texas.

The Bears (12-5, 2-3 Big 12) fell out of the national rankings due to their slide but are back in after victories over West Virginia and Oklahoma State.

The anxiety is gone as well after Baylor led by as many as 28 points during Saturday’s 74-58 home win over the Cowboys.

“I felt like everything started to settle down,” Bears guard LJ Cryer said, referring to the team’s 83-78 road win at West Virginia on Wednesday. “From my perspective, everybody was uptight after those (three) losses. Just a lot of tension. But after getting that win, I felt like we loosened up and we’re getting back to having fun again.

“Basketball is supposed to be fun. I feel like when we’re out there having fun, we play our best.”

Baylor will try to continue the enjoyment against Texas Tech (10-7, 0-5), which swept the Bears last season for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.

Baylor freshman Keyonte George will try to regain his form after scoring just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting against Oklahoma State. He had a career-best 32 points in the victory over the Mountaineers as part of a three-game stretch in which he averaged 27 per game.

“When young players have a great game, normally if they’re not getting shots or they’re not scoring (the next game), they try to force things,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said of George. “Every night, you’re not going to score 32. And when defenses key on you, you’re now getting other people opportunities to score and be successful.”

George has recorded seven games of at least 20 points and leads the Bears with a 17.2 scoring average. Adam Flagler averages 16.5 points and 5.3 assists and Cryer chips in 13.9 points per game.

Texas Tech needs a victory to avoid matching its longest skid since twice losing six in a row during the 2014-15 season.

The Red Raiders had an upset opportunity Saturday but fell 72-70 to then-No. 10 Texas. Texas Tech led by 12 in the first half before the Longhorns rallied.

Red Raiders coach Mark Adams was encouraged by the effort, which came four days after his club was steamrolled 84-50 by then-No. 14 Iowa State.

“Teams can be dangerous if they’re hungry and have their backs to the wall,” Adams said. “We have to fit that mold. I would like to think that we are dangerous. We want to get that win.”

Pop Isaacs fell one point shy of his career high with 23, but perhaps the biggest jolt came from big man Fardaws Aimaq, who had 12 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench in his Texas Tech debut.

Aimaq missed the first 16 games due to a foot injury. He transferred to the Red Raiders following back-to-back stellar seasons at Utah Valley, where he was named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season and the league’s defensive player of the year in each of the past two campaigns.

“I’m proud of how we battled,” Aimaq said after the loss to Texas. “We showed toughness in the game and never gave up. For us, it’s about getting better. This was our first game all season where we had a full, healthy team. I think once we start to click it will change things for us.”

Kevin Obanor leads the Red Raiders with a 15.4 scoring average.

–Field Level Media

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