Baylor will search for a bit of consistency on offense in its final tune-up before Big 12 play, and it draws a promising matchup against one of the nation’s worst defenses.
While the 23rd-ranked Bears seek their 34th straight home win over a nonconference team on Tuesday, visiting Texas Southern hopes for a repeat of last year’s victory over another power conference team.
After five days off, Baylor (9-2) is left wondering which team will show up: the one that struggled to 35.6 percent shooting in an 80-61 loss at Texas A&M on Dec. 19 or the one that shot 47.7 percent in an 85-70 win over New Mexico State four days later.
Leading scorer Taurean Prince played a big part in the difference, matching a season low with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting in the former before making 13 of 19 for a career-high 34 points in the latter. Prince’s previous high was 30 in a 69-67 win over Vanderbilt on Dec. 6, but he combined for 30 in the three games in-between.
Ishmail Wainright has become a contributor on the offensive end for the Bears, who open conference play Saturday at No. 2 Kansas. The junior guard set a career high with 12 points while making 4 of 5 3-pointers against Texas A&M and followed with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting against New Mexico State. Wainright averaged 1.6 points in his freshman and sophomore seasons and had scored in double digits just once previously this season.
“I am tired of TP yelling at me and smacking me in the head trying to get me to shoot the ball,” Wainright told the team’s official website. “I have turned down a lot of good shots lately, but it feels very good to score a little bit now. It feels really good.”
Open shots should be easy to find against a miserable Texas Southern defense, which ranks in the bottom 10 percent of 346 Division I teams in points per game (81.2) and field-goal percentage (50.3).
The Tigers (1-10) haven’t played a home game yet and will look for their first win on a seven-game road trip. They are 0-9 in road games and 1-1 at neutral sites, the lone win a 91-80 victory over UTSA in Las Vegas on Nov. 25.
Freshman Derrick Griffin made all nine of his shots for 20 points while pulling down nine rebounds and Jerron Martin hit six 3-pointers in Sunday’s 80-67 loss at Syracuse. The Tigers hung around early but fell back 40-30 at halftime after an 18-8 Syracuse run.
”I know our record is 1-10, but we were 1-9 last year before we beat Michigan State,” coach Mike Davis said.
That 71-64 overtime victory last December over the 25th-ranked Spartans was Texas Southern’s first over a ranked opponent since 1994.
Griffin was a top football recruit headed to Miami two years ago, but he failed to qualify academically and enrolled at Texas Southern after sitting out a year. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward has played in the last five games and is second on the team with 17.2 points per game and leads the Tigers with an average of 10.2 rebounds. He caught 11 touchdowns as a wide receiver on the football team this fall.
Baylor has won all eight matchups in this series, each in Waco, including a 75-49 victory last December. Rico Gathers led the way with 23 points and 13 rebounds.