By Cody Soto
Baylor rolled to a 75-49 win over Texas Southern on Monday night behind a monstrous performance from junior forward Rico Gathers at the Ferrell Center.
“We had good defense and good rebounding tonight,” head coach Scott Drew said. “With 22 offensive rebounds, we’ve got to score more than nine second-chance points. I credit Texas Southern for picking up their intensity and picking up shots [in the end].”
Gathers finished the night with a career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds in the 26-point win. He also added four blocks on the defensive end. Junior guard Lester Medford had 13 points and eight assists, followed by junior forward Taurean Prince with 11 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Al Freeman also dropped nine points off the bench for Baylor.
Baylor (6-1) out-rebounded the Tigers 47-30. The Bears rallied for 22 offensive rebounds, a season-high for the Bears. The Monday night matchup was the fifth straight game where Baylor limited its opponent to less than 50 points, and the Bears picked up its eighth straight win over Texas Southern (1-6) to bounce back from their loss against Illinois Friday night.
“I felt like it was my best game tonight,” Medford said. “After the last game, I learned I just need to relax. The coaches have told me to play my game and have fun.”
Cold shooting plagued the team early, but the Bears opened up the game with a layup from Prince, and a dunk from Gathers tied it up at 4-4. Two three-pointers from Medford and a monstrous dunk from Gathers pushed the Bears’ lead to 13-4 quickly after that.
Junior forward Deng Deng provided a crowd-pleasing dunk and allowed Baylor to keep in front. Gathers finished off the half with a layup and a free throw to give Baylor a 41-22 lead heading into the locker room.
“When Rico is working hard, I try to get him extra passes whether it’s running the floor or dumping it in to him so he can stay hot with the hot hand and get easy layups for us,” Medford said.
Baylor jumped out and scored 15 points early in the half, led by Gathers and Medford. Senior forward Royce O’Neale passed his 1,000th point milestone with a smooth three-pointer from the corner to push the lead to 60-32.
O’Neale and Medford provided buckets for Baylor down the stretch after Texas Southern used three-pointers and free throws to avoid the embarrassment. Freeman nailed a three-pointer to push the lead out to 69-44.
The defense looked a little sloppy down the stretch with many fouls and a chance for Texas Southern to push their way back with free throws, but the Bears used big plays down the stretch to keep the large margin lead.
Sophomore guard Ishmail Wainwright topped of the win with four free throws, and freshman forward T.J. Maston added a layup to give Baylor the 75-49 win. Even with the convincing win, Gathers is still not satisfied with his scoring. That will need to improve, he said.
“I wanted to go out there, play and compete with my brothers tonight,” Gathers said. “I really try to focus on finishing, but if I’m missing them, I can’t let that get in the way of what I do best, and that’s rebounding. Do I stop rebounding because I miss a layup after an offensive rebound? No. So, I just keep going at it. It’ll eventually get in there.”
The Bears travel to Nashville, Tenn. to face Vanderbilt Thursday night in conjunction with the ESPN SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.