Baylor believes it belongs in the Top 25, and it’s getting ample opportunity to prove it.
The undefeated Bears look to knock off a ranked team for the second time in three days when they face No. 19 Wake Forest in the title game of the 76 Classic on Sunday night in Anaheim, Calif.
Baylor (6-0) upset No. 14 Arizona State 87-78 on Friday night after beating Providence 72-65 a day earlier to open the tournament. The Bears are off to their best start since winning their first 12 games in 2000-01, and think they should be counted among the Top 25 teams in the nation.
“As competitors, we don’t like it,” Baylor guard Curtis Jerrells said. “But that just gives us a little more hunger. We’ve shown that so far in this tournament.”
If the Bears aren’t already in line for a spot in the Top 25, a second straight win over a ranked team would almost certainly get them in. Baylor, though, will have to find a way to stop the Demon Deacons (5-0), who are seeking their first 6-0 start since opening 2003-04 with 11 straight victories.
Wake Forest barely got past UTEP on Friday, needing two free throws with 14 seconds left from Jeff Teague to secure an 82-79 victory.
“Coach (Dino) Gaudio says that every time we’re shooting free throws back in Winston-Salem, he tells us to shoot them like it’s the last minute of the game,” said Teague, who had 29 points and tied a career-best with six assists.
The sophomore guard has been outstanding this season, averaging team highs of 22.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. He’s shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point range.
Teague averaged 13.9 points last season, starting 21 games.
He leads a Wake Forest team that is shooting 54.0 percent from the floor while averaging 86.6 points. The Demon Deacons’ opponents are averaging 63.0 points and shooting 34.8 percent from the field.
Baylor is averaging 86.3 points and is coming off its most impressive offensive performance of the season.
The Bears went 11-for-24 (45.8 percent) en route to setting a 76 Classic record with 87 points versus Arizona State. It was also the most points allowed by the Sun Devils under coach Herb Sendek.
“We like to share the ball,” Jerrells said. “That’s why we’re so flexible. We can make an extra pass and find an extra player.”
LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor with 27 points and Jerrells added 22 Friday.
Dunn, a sophomore guard, leads the Bears with 18.0 points and 2.0 steals per game while making 80.0 percent of his free throws. He’s complemented nicely in the backcourt by Jerrells, who’s averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 6.3 assists.
Kevin Rogers is Baylor’s top frontcourt player, averaging 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds. The senior forward, though, was held to a season-low nine points against Arizona State.
This will be the first meeting between Wake Forest and Baylor.