After move up rankings, No. 9 Baylor set to face Nicholls

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 27 Nov, 2023 at 10:17 PM

Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Baylor will look to build on a tournament win in the Big Apple and remain undefeated when the Bears home to host Nicholls on Tuesday in Waco, Texas.

The Bears (6-0) remained perfect on the season and moved up four spots in the latest poll by sweeping through the NIT Preseason Tipoff. Baylor earned a dominating win over Oregon State on Wednesday before a gritty 95-91 victory over Florida in the tournament final on Friday.

Baylor has won five of its past six regular-season tournaments going back to 2016.

"Most teams that do well in these preseason tournaments, it usually bodes well for postseason, because you've got to have something to you to win tournaments like this," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.

Against the Gators, RayJ Dennis led Baylor with season-best 24 points (22 in the second half) and Jalen Bridges added a season-high 23 points while hitting five 3-pointers. Langston Love had 16 points for the Bears and Ja'Kobe Walter rang up 11, all in the first half.

The game was tied 41-41 at halftime and featured just three lead changes. Baylor went on top for good midway through the second half and did just enough to hold on.

The victory showcased Baylor's depth at multiple positions. Both star freshmen Walter and Yves Missi were forced to the bench early in the second half with foul trouble.

"This is certainly the deepest team that I've been on," Bridges said after the win. "From 1 to 13, we're super-talented. Everybody's always on the rope. We're out there together, we stay connected. When you play like that, it's hard to beat. We're trying to make the opponent miserable for 40 minutes, and that's what we did."

Tuesday's contest is the first of a three-game homestand for Baylor before it plays Michigan State in Detroit on Dec. 16. Baylor and Nicholls have played three times since 2018, with Baylor winning all three at home by an average of 28.3 points.

The Colonels (3-4) head to Waco after a 74-61 loss at Mississippi State on Friday. Jamal West Jr. led Nicholls with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Byron Ireland added 10. The Colonels never led in the game and lost the rebounding battle 48-29 while giving up 20 second-chance points.

Nicholls trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half before closing the game with an 11-2 run to make the final score more respectable.

The Colonels are a disappointing 2-3 since a 68-66 victory at LSU on Nov. 10, winning on Jalen White's last-second 3-pointer.

"You just gotta believe," Nicholls coach Tevon Saddler said. "Our guys have a high belief system in themselves and in each other. They understand the things we preach, and most importantly, they work. We don't skip any steps, we do it the right way."

Saddler, 28, is the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I. He played at Nicholls and was the school's director of basketball operations before filling that same role last year at Maryland. He was hired at his alma mater in April.

--Field Level Media