Baylor is making sure that before it begins Big 12 play, it’s as prepared as possible for the rigors that will come with it as well.
On Friday, the 19th-ranked Bears close out their non-conference slate with their third game in five days as they host South Carolina, who are playing their second consecutive ranked opponent.
Baylor (12-1) is coming off of an undefeated December in which it won six straight following an 87-74 loss to then-No. 19 Wake Forest on Nov. 30.
While two of the wins were by fewer than 10 points, the Bears showed off their dominance during December, winning the other four by an average of 22.5 and holding the six opponents to 65.7 points.
Baylor finished the month with a 113-78 win over Jackson State on Wednesday. The Bears shot 63.8 percent from the field and were 10-of-24 from 3-point range. They also led 62-37 at the break, allowing most of the starting lineup to rest in the second half.
“As far as today goes I think that our first group out there did a great job and they really got us off to a great start and helped us set the tone,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Everybody played and everybody played hard. A lot of good things were accomplished and now we are fully focused and ready for (South Carolina) and then the Big 12.”
Kevin Rogers led Baylor with 21 points and Henry Dugat added 20.
This is the third game in five days for the Bears, who began the stretch on Monday with a 79-66 win over Portland State. They then get a week off before hosting Texas Tech to open the Big 12 season.
“Every time that we step onto the court we are ready to play,” Rogers said. “We came out with a different focus (on Tuesday). With us having three games in five days we had to come out with a different level of focus and we are going to try and step it up from game to game.”
The Bears are looking to match the school’s longest single-season home winning streak on Friday. Baylor won 10 straight home games to open the 2000-01 season.
The Gamecocks (9-2) will try to bounce back after a 98-87 loss to No. 20 Clemson on Saturday, which snapped a five-game winning streak.
South Carolina reduced an 18-point deficit to eight with 11:38 remaining, but the Gamecocks couldn’t keep it going. Devan Downey scored a career-high 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting.
“We just can’t dig ourselves into these kind of holes in big games,” said Downey, who’s averaging a team-high 20.6 points. “We just can’t do it.”
This is the third all-time meeting between Baylor and South Carolina. The Bears won 92-84 at Columbia on Dec. 19, 2007, led by 24 points from LaceDarius Dunn, while the Gamecocks won 64-59 in Waco on Dec. 9, 2006.