No. 25 Bears host SEC’s Vanderbilt

Sophomore forward Jonathan Motley jumps near the basket for a layup during the Bears’ game against Prairie View A&M Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

The No. 25 Baylor Bears (5-1) host the No. 16 Vanderbilt Commodores (6-1) on Sunday in what will be the non-conference marquee matchup of the season for head coach Scott Drew’s squad.

Last year, the Bears proved to be a tough test for a young and developing Vanderbilt team. In 2014, as part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge, Baylor pulled out a 66-63 win over the Commodores in Nashville, Tenn.

This year, the Bears come into the matchup with a record of 5-1. Thus far, Baylor is still undefeated at home, with their only loss coming in Eugene, Oregon, against the then-ranked No. 15 Oregon Ducks.

While the Bears have not been as good on the road, they have found success in the home-cooking of the Ferrell Center. Baylor’s average margin of victory at home is 31.8 points.

Drew and the Bears will hope to continue their home-court dominance against Vanderbilt on Sunday.

So far the Bears have shot the ball season exceptionally well at home.

Baylor ranks No. 27 in the nation, with a 50 percent field goal percentage on the year.

The Bears have also taken advantage of their ability to get to the free throw line. As a team, they are shooting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe, an improvement from last year’s free throw numbers.

With the physical presence of its forwards, senior Rico Gathers, senior Taurean Prince and sophomore Johnathan Motley, Baylor has been able to dominate on the glass as well. But that may not be the case on Sunday.

For a team that is rarely outsized, the Bears may meet their match in the Commodores.

This year, the Vanderbilt squad looks deeper and more experienced as they head into Waco with one thought in mind – revenge.

Like Baylor, the Commodores have only suffered one loss on the season. And it just turns out that Vanderbilt’s only loss was against a team that the Bears will play twice this season – the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Commodores lost to Kansas 70-63 in the Maui Invitational tournament championship on Nov. 25.

Despite the loss, Vanderbilt was competitive in the contest and even dictated play on the inside at times.

Baylor will have to contend with the Commodores size as they have two players over seven feet tall.

Junior forward Luke Kornet is Vanderbilt’s tallest, and perhaps its most dominant, player. Although Kornet only averages 9.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game, head coach Kevin Stallings said Kornet is the most impactful.

The 7-foot-1, 240-pound Argyle native uses his size to clean the glass and alter shots in the paint. His dominating presence has led the Commodores to rank third in the nation defensively with a 33.8 opponent field goal percentage.

In a battle of heavyweights, Baylor will look to slow down Kornet and Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Ferrell Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU.