Savannah St.-Baylor Preview

The Associated Press

Before a difficult matchup to begin Big 12 play, Baylor has one more inferior non-conference foe it should easily handle.

The ninth-ranked Bears look for a sixth consecutive victory Friday night against Savannah State, which has yet to defeat a Division I team this season.

Baylor (11-1) is among four ranked Big 12 schools and faces a tough task off the bat Tuesday when it opens league play at No. 13 Iowa State, which enters this weekend undefeated.

First, the Bears hope to build even more momentum while trying for a 12th straight home victory. Winners in 16 of 17 going back to its postseason NIT title, Baylor has averaged 84.8 points while shooting 52.9 percent during a five-game winning streak since losing 74-67 to current-No. 2 Syracuse on Nov. 27 in the Maui Invitational final.

Most recently, the Bears missed their first six field-goal attempts and trailed 7-0 but still shot 51.7 percent overall and defeated Oral Roberts 81-55 on Monday. It was their first game since an 81-56 victory over Southern University on Dec. 22.

"After the Christmas break, you're always a little nervous about getting back into a routine. The first 5 minutes of the game validated why we're nervous," coach Scott Drew said. "We couldn't throw it in the ocean. We weren't really moving, weren't active. Then we played 35 minutes of very good basketball."

Cory Jefferson scored all of his 17 points in the second half, increasing his team-leading average to 14.3 on 57.0 percent shooting. Taurean Prince scored a season-high 16 off the bench, Isaiah Austin added 15 with four blocks and Rico Gathers recorded his second double-double in three games with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bears posted 24 assists while turning the ball over a season-low nine times.

"We're finally doing a good job of taking care of the basketball," said Drew, whose team averaged 11.2 turnovers in December compared to 14.6 in November. "For us this is a good win. I am very pleased with the win."

Drew's club has held its last two opponents below 37.0 percent from the field and is allowing an average of 61.6 points in regulation during the win streak.

"They're so long and athletic, it's hard to get good, clean looks at the basket," Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton said. "... We have played three top 10 teams, and I think this team is the most gifted team we have played as far as athleticism and size. They are very deserving of their ranking."

Now the Bears look to hand Savannah State (2-11) a 10th straight defeat since it beat Tennessee Temple and Florida National in consecutive games Nov. 12 and 14.

The Tigers will face their second straight ranked opponent after losing 76-34 at then-No. 13 Florida on Sunday. They shot a season-worst 24.5 percent and gave up 32 points off 20 turnovers.

"We just have to take this game and try to learn from it," coach Horace Broadnax said.

Savannah State is 0-13 against Top 25 teams since becoming a Division I member in 1998, losing by an average of 37.4 points.

Senior guard Deven Williams averages a team-leading 11.8 points but has totaled 15 in consecutive losses to Miami and the Gators.

Baylor beat the Tigers 86-50 in the teams' only meeting Jan. 13, 2005.

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