No. 12 Baylor absorbed a crushing defeat by Marquette early last week and faced a late deficit against then-No. 14 Gonzaga three days later.
But instead of taking a third loss, the Bears closed the marquee game with an 8-0 run to knock off the Bulldogs and now look to continue the momentum Tuesday night when they host Tarleton State at Waco, Texas.
The 64-63 victory over Gonzaga lifted the spirits of Baylor (6-2), which was annihilated 96-70 in a road game against Marquette. Baylor still fell six spots in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, released Monday.
“No one felt good about our performance, we were embarrassed at Marquette,” Bears coach Scott Drew said after the victory over the Zags at Sioux Falls, S.D. “The staff worked hard to change some things and players did a great job buying in, carrying out the game plan. At the end of the day, they’re responsible for holding the No. 1 offense to 63 points.”
Baylor trailed 63-56 with 1:41 remaining against Gonzaga before Adam Flagler drilled two 3-pointers in a 24-second span. Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16.2 seconds to play to grab the lead and the Bears played sturdy defense down the stretch to finish off the comeback victory.
“Adam’s a great leader, a great winner,” Drew said of Flagler, “but no one knew that he wasn’t feeling well. To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. But he played for his team, and he left it all out on the court. I know as a coach, I appreciate that.”
Flagler scored a season-low 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. His two 3-pointers also were a season low.
Flagler has made a team-high 28 3-pointers — his long-range percentage of 51.9 also leads the Bears — and stands second on the squad with a 16.1 scoring average.
LJ Cryer leads Baylor with a 16.5 average and freshman standout Keyonte George is third at 14.9. George had a team-best 18 points against Gonzaga.
The improved defensive effort was key. The Bears are allowing an average of 70.6 points per game but have given up an average of 91 in their two setbacks, which includes an 86-79 loss to then-No. 16 Virginia on Nov. 18 at Las Vegas.
Tarleton State (5-3) has won two consecutive games — it knocked off Weber State 75-65 last Tuesday before routing NAIA program Wiley College 98-55 on Saturday.
Earlier this season, the Texans produced a 70-54 victory over Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference, marking the school’s first-ever victory over a power conference program. Tarleton State’s three setbacks this season are to Arizona State, Drake and Wichita State.
In the recent win over Weber State, four players finished in double digits and nine players scored points.
“It’s great to have depth and I believe we have it this year,” Texans coach Billy Gillispie said afterward. “This team is a work in progress, off to a great start and getting better every day.”
Gillispie is in his third season at Tarleton State. He previously served as head coach of UTEP, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Texas Tech.
In Saturday’s victory over Wiley, Lue Williams led the way with 17 points. Jakorie Smith added 15, Freddy Hicks tallied 14 and Shamir Bogues had 12.
Hicks leads the Texans in scoring (19.8) and rebounding (7.2). Smith averages 11.5 points per game and Williams chips in 11 per game.
Baylor leads the series 6-2 but this will be the first meeting since the 1986-87 season. The Bears won that game 85-56.
–Field Level Media