Baylor was victorious its last time out, but wasn’t very sharp in its return to the court following a six-day layoff for final exams.
Looking to avoid a similar performance in their final game before a break of the same length for the holidays, the 21st-ranked Bears put their perfect home record on the line as they face Hartford on Monday night.
Baylor (9-1) has won three straight since falling to then-No. 19 Wake Forest on Nov. 30, but was a bit rusty in its latest contest. It needed to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit to edge visiting Texas-Arlington 79-76 on Saturday night—its first game since Dec. 13 before breaking for finals.
Monday’s matchup with Hartford (4-7) will be the Bears’ last before a six-day hiatus for the holidays, and they expect a better showing.
“When you’re off for a week, maybe that led to a sluggish start in the first half,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team was held to 35.5 percent shooting after the first 20 minutes. “In the second half, our leadership really paid off. We had a lot of positives.”
Drew’s squad survived the upset bid thanks to senior guard Curtis Jerrells, who scored 24 of his season-high 29 points in the second half. Baylor also received contributions from Tweety Carter and Kevin Rogers, who each scored 13 points, while Henry Dugat added 11.
Those performances were beneficial as LaceDarius Dunn, the Bears’ second-leading scorer with 16.1 points per game, was limited to just nine points on 2-of-7 shooting, while playing just 20 minutes and fouling out with 3:45 remaining.
While Dunn tries for a better outing, Jerrells seeks to continue climbing Baylor’s scoring charts. Averaging a team-high 17.2 points, Jerrells needs four more points to surpass Darrell Hardy (1,360) for sixth all-time.
Dugat and Rogers, meanwhile, are nine and 12 points, respectively, short of reaching the 1,000-point mark.
The Bears continue their season-high seven-game homestand, which will conclude against Texas Tech in their Big 12 opener on Jan. 10. They are 6-0 at home.
Hartford, meanwhile, halted a seven-game road losing streak in its last game, beating Sacred Heart 59-55 on Dec. 14 before breaking for exams.
Andres Torres scored 15 points, Morgan Sabia had 14 and Anthony Minor added 10 for the Hawks, who avoided a third straight defeat despite the absence of leading scorer Joe Zeglinski. The junior guard, averaging team highs in both points (15.3) and rebounds (5.5), was sidelined by a sprained ankle and his status for Monday is uncertain.
Like Baylor, Hartford is hoping it can overcome a lengthy layoff with a solid performance, though it hasn’t fared well versus ranked opponents in recent seasons. The Hawks have dropped nine straight to Top 25 foes, getting outscored by 29.2 points.
This is the first meeting between Baylor and Hartford.