By Cody Soto
Baylor men’s basketball may have won a 60-45 contest over Prairie View A&M Friday night at the Ferrell Center, but the team was disappointed in its performance.
In the win, Baylor (3-0) shot 47.7 percent from the field, but was 58.3 percent on free throws, missing 10 free points. A sloppy 18 turnovers did not help the Bears but the team was able to take its 13th consecutive win over the Panthers (0-4) behind a strong defensive presence.
“Prairie View A&M did a really good job of controlling the tempo tonight,” head coach Scott Drew said. “Defensively, we did well. We were really disappointed with the execution on our offensive end. 18 turnovers are way too many, so that was the most disappointing part of the night.”
Junior forward Taurean Prince scored 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting to lead the Bears. Junior forward Rico Gathers had his first double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for the Bears. Baylor owned the boards and outrebounded Prairie View A&M 41-26.
“It was great to see Rico’s activity on the glass, but he works too hard to finish 4-for-10 in a game,” Drew said. “He needs to shoot 60 percent from the field, and a lot of those missed points were layups, so he needs to finish those.”
Senior forward Royce O’Neale played a balanced game and contributed 10 rebounds, five points, three assists, three steals and one block in the win over the Panthers. Freshman guard Al Freeman dropped eight points, followed by senior guard Kenny Chery with two three-pointers in the first half.
The Bears held the Panthers to a 35.2 shooting percentage and only allowed one three-pointer in the second half after Prairie View A&M drained four in the opening frame.
The Panthers took the first basket after Gathers took the opening tipoff for the Bears. Prairie View A&M started hot and took an early 6-2 lead over Baylor. A steal and a basket by O’Neale tied up the game at 8-8 with 14:49 left in the first half. The Bears grabbed a 15-14 lead after O’Neale nailed a three-pointer, and from then on Baylor did not trail the rest of the game.
Chery kept the ball rolling and swished a shot at the top of three-point line to push the Bears’ lead to 29-17. Prince then connected with sophomore forward Ishmail Wainright, who slammed down two points to get the crowd on their feet. Prairie View A&M’s Jacoby Green and Jayrn Johnson added baskets to cut the lead, but Chery nailed another three-pointer for the Bears’ final field goal of the half. Prince hit a free throw, and the Bears led 37-22 at the half.
“From the jumper, we were getting the ball inside early,” Gathers said. “It’s like the old saying ‘If you work the ball on the inside, it will open up the outside.’”
Gathers opened up the second half for Baylor with a two-point shot. Prince scored the next three points which included a big slam dunk from junior guard Lester Medford. After a field goal from freshman forward Johnathan Motley, Baylor rolled to a 49-34 advantage heading into the final stretch.
Prairie View A&M used the shot clock to wind down time and kept up with the Bears the rest of the game. Each team would score 11 more points before the final buzzer sounded. Freeman hit a nice layup for Baylor’s final made shot of the night.
The Bears will look to improve in the final stretch of each game after giving up too many last second points to the Panthers.
“We pride ourselves on toughness, and in the last five minutes we have to be the toughest team,” Gathers said.
The Bears will play host to in-state foe Stephen F. Austin Monday night as part of the Las Vegas Invitational. Baylor will need to be better prepared to play the Lumberjacks who made an NCAA tournament appearance last season, Prince said.
“We need to be more prepared for SFA more than we were for Prairie View A&M,” Prince said. “We need to take care of the ball, get assists and give each other easy looks.”
Tipoff at the Ferrell Center is set for 7 p.m. on Monday. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Southwest.