By Cody Soto
Baylor men’s basketball used a strong performance from senior forward Royce O’Neale and junior forward Taurean Prince to take a 66-63 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night at Memorial Gym in Nashville, Tenn.
This is the first win since 1949 for the Bears against the Commodores, and Baylor snaps an eight-game losing streak to Vanderbilt. The Bears are now 5-1 in conference challenges, marking a perfect 2-0 record in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The Bears finished with a 45.3 shooting effort and were 55.6 percent from the three-point line. Baylor used a 33-30 edge in rebounding to secure the win in a very tight game at Memorial Gym.
O’Neale and Prince combined for 41 points and collected 22 and 19 points individually. Prince also had five rebounds, four assists and a block for the Bears. Junior guard Lester Medford had seven points and added six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals to keep the Bears in front.
Junior forward Rico Gathers only had four points after posting a career-high 23 points in Baylor’s win over Texas Southern Monday night. Gathers contributed six rebounds on defense.
Freshman guard Al Freeman saw quite a bit of playing time and had seven points and added two three-pointers in the win. Sophomore forward Ishmail Wainwright added four rebounds for Baylor.
A layup by Prince broke a 12-12 tie halfway through the first half, and the Bears cruised on a 8-0 run capped off by junior guard Austin Mills’ three-pointer to lead 20-12 with 9:09 left in the opening half.
A three-pointer by Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin cut the lead to five, but O’Neale secured the jump shot to make it a seven-point lead for Baylor. Prince was red hot from beyond the arc and knocked down a buzzer beater, and Baylor went into the locker room with a 34-25 lead.
The Bears came out flat and allowed a 6-0 run to start out the second half. Freeman and O’Neale each hit a three-pointer to extend the lead to nine, and O’Neale went ahead and added another three-pointer.
The game got close in the final minutes, and Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones sunk two free throws to cut the lead to 65-63. Baldwin fouled Medford with 14 seconds to go, and Medford sunk a free throw to push the lead to three. Vanderbilt failed at an attempted last second three-pointer, and the Bears took the 66-63 win over the Commodores.
The Bears will host Texas A&M in a classic intrastate battle Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center. Game time is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN2.