No. 20 men’s basketball hosts Jackson State

Sophomore guard Al Freeman attempts a layup during a preseason game against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 13 at the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

By Joshua Davis, Sports Writer

No. 20 Baylor men’s basketball looks to rebound after suffering its first loss of the 2015 season, as the Bears host the Jackson State Tigers at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Center.

The Bears (1-1) are coming off a defeat at No. 25 Oregon on Monday, where they registered an unusually high amount of turnovers.

“I was more surprised that we turned it over as much as we did (18 turnovers),” head coach Scott Drew said. “If you take away those 28 points, then you’re feeling pretty good about the game, but the 28 points off turnovers is just giving the game away.”

The Bears have had a recent spell of games with an increasing lack of ball security.

In two of its last three games, Baylor has turned the ball over at least 18 times. The Bears committed 18 or more turnovers three times last season, with their season high (21) coming in a loss to Georgia State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

While giving the ball away proved costly for Baylor in its first defeat of the season, a favorable four-game stretch could give Drew’s team the perfect opportunity to right the ship.

Drew plans on eliminating the woeful trend during the upcoming slate of games at home. If the Bears cannot correct the problem, then they have no chance of competing against teams in the conference, he said.

“It’s like in football having four turnovers against a good team. You’re not going to win, so we’ve got to do a better job of executing on the offensive end,” Drew said.

Baylor can start to improve by continuing its control at home over Jackson State tonight.

The Bears have had no trouble against the Tigers in six previous meetings, winning by an average of 27.8 points. It has been three years since the two teams have played, so Jackson State is not a familiar foe to the Baylor team this season.

Senior forwards Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince are the only players to have played in the most recent contest between the two. They both saw limited action in the Bears 78-47 win on Nov. 11, 2012.

A familiar sight for the team will be the comforts of the Ferrell Center. Baylor has been unbeatable against unranked opponents at home. The Bears have won 25 consecutive non-conference games versus unranked opponents at the familiar venue and look to keep that streak alive.

Last time out, the Bears enjoyed the home cooking and limited its turnovers to eight, while shooting 64 percent in a 97-55 win over Stephen F. Austin.

However, Baylor was unable to carry that momentum on the road, as they appeared sloppy and lethargic on offense. The poor play resulted in a 74-67 road loss.

“[Oregon] exposed areas where we have to get better,” Drew said. “It will make us hungry to get better and get [us] ready for what [we] face in the conference.”

Despite the overall letdown from the Bears, there were a couple bright spots in the sophomores for Baylor. Guard Al Freeman scored 22 points and hauled in seven rebounds, while forward Johnathan Motley contributed 17 and also grabbed seven boards.

Rather than viewing the loss as a disappointing one, Freeman remained optimistic.

“I think it’s going to end up being a great experience for us,” Freeman said of the loss to Oregon. “[We can] bond and come together and get ready for our upcoming games. Our next game especially.”

The next four matchups for Baylor are against less than stellar programs, which leave many people speculating how much the Bears will improve before hosting No. 17 Vanderbilt on Dec. 6.

Drew said he views each game as a learning experience to be ready for the tougher schedule ahead.

“It’s not about where we are right now. It’s about where we will be,” Drew said.