By Cody Soto
Baylor men’s basketball rekindled the Battle of the Brazos rivalry with a 77-63 win over in-state foe Texas A&M Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (8-1) used a 38-17 rebounding advantage to hold the Aggies (6-2) to zero offensive rebounds on the night. That number alone allowed Baylor to pull ahead and never look back. Senior guard Kenny Chery saw game action for the first time in four games after injuring his foot prior to the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
“We’re pleased that we were able to perform as well as we were the last 30 minutes of the game,” Drew said. “We’ve done a very good job on the defensive end, and shot selection is getting better. After the first 10 minutes of the game, we were right back in step with everything.”
Redshirt freshman forward Johnathan Motley led the team with a career-high 22 rebounds and 11 rebounds, eight of which were offensive boards. Junior forward Rico Gathers had 13 points and 10 rebounds, followed by junior guard Lester Medford with 11 points and six assists, and redshirt freshman guard Al Freeman with 10 points, two assists and two steals in the win.
Prior to this game, Motley had a two-game scoring drought and had not made a basket since the Bears’ 62-54 loss to Illinois on Nov. 28.
“My team was like, ‘Welcome back Mot,’” Motley said. “Every player goes through one of those slumps, and I just had to change up some things and get back to my old self. I give thanks to my teammates for giving me the confidence to do it.”
The Bears started out stone cold in the first 10 minutes and trailed quickly after Texas A&M used two three-pointers and a jumper to lead 8-1. Medford brought it within five as he nailed a three-pointer with 11:53 left in the first half, and a layup from junior forward Taurean Prince and a three-pointer from Freeman boosted the Bears to an 18-14 lead.
“Everyone plays to the best of their ability every time they step on the court,” Gathers said. “There’s always going to be a game where people aren’t hitting, but that’s why we have so many players on our team. Any player can really go off at any given time. That right there is deadly, especially on stretch games like these.”
The Bears never looked back, and Chery put in a layup with little time left on the clock to lead 36-29 at the half. Baylor dominated the second half and used 18 second chance points throughout the game to maintain the lead. Motley’s two-point basket gave Baylor a 10-point lead, and the gap kept growing.
Gathers had a monstrous dunk that brought the crowd to their feet before the Aggies went on a 6-0 to finish the game. Baylor closed out the Aggies for a 77-63 win at the Ferrell Center. The Bears fed off of the crowd’s energy tonight, Gathers said.
“They brought the energy,” Gathers said. “When you come into the game like Battle of the Brazos between Texas A&M and Baylor, then newcomers don’t know about that. Everyone was new to the rivalry. We were excited. We had some pregame jitters, but we had to tone that down and express our feelings through our game, and that’s what we did.”
During his ninth game playing for Baylor, Motley was able to see the rivalry. He wanted the result of the game to speak for itself, he said.
“There were a lot of Texas A&M fans out there tonight, but this is our house,” Motley said. “This is the Ferrell Center. We wanted to let that be known. This is Baylor and we made a statement.”
The Bears host New Mexico State on Dec. 17 at the Ferrell Center in one of its final games before conference play. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and will air on ESPNU.