No. 18 Baylor looks to hold Hawks winless

Redshirt junior forward Mark Vital puts the Bears on the board with a dunk to kickoff the first half of Baylor’s 72-63 win over Texas State on Nov. 15 at the Ferrell Center. Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer

When Maryland-Eastern Shore travels to Waco in search of their first victory (0-9) Tuesday night, No. 18 Baylor knows not to underestimate its opponent, no matter who it is.

It’s possible to dominate the college men’s basketball league and still fall short to the underdog. Just ask Duke who fell to Stephen F. Austin 85-83 last week.

“It’s every day there’s a name school or power five school getting beat by a mid-major conference opponent,” head coach Scott Drew said. “Each and every day you look and there’s upsets and that’s why college basketball is such an exciting time … early in the year, those teams are starting to still figure things out. You can’t go two or three days without an upset.”

The veteran team has seen its fair share of falling short in non-conference matchups. To name a few, last year the Bears fell to Texas Southern (72-69) to open the season and Wichita State (71-63) in early December 2018. With those losses lingering in their heads, sophomore Jared Butler said he knows the importance of playing the full 40 minutes.

“We take every game as an opportunity for us to get better, and you know, we focus on ourselves a lot,” Butler said. “We try to improve on that toughness and our mental toughness throughout the game. I think this game is an opportunity to get better, not play the scoreboard and just really lock in.”

Locking in is something the team was successful in during the Myrtle Beach Invitational as the Bears went into the Thanksgiving break hot off a 87-78 victory over No. 17 Villanova on Nov. 24. Baylor will try to extend its win streak to five after dropping a game to Washington 67-64 in the Armed Forces Classic on Nov. 8.

The Hawks come to Waco off a 66-44 loss to Fordham University Sunday afternoon. In their matchup, Maryland-Eastern was only able to tally 15 points in the first half.

The Bears average 80.2 points per game and are 5-0 when scoring 70 points or more this season, and they may add to their streak when they face the Hawks. Maryland-Eastern has fallen short to opponents by an average of 24 points (76.2-52.3), shooting at .363 from the field and .288 from deep. Baylor, on the other hand, is more successful offensively at .461 from the field and .403 on three’s.

Another important factor in the matchup will be turnovers. The Hawks struggle with losing the ball, racking up 146 in 9 games and averaging 16.2 per game. Likewise, Drew said the Bears have room for improvement with an average of nearly 12 turnovers a game.

“It’s like a marathon race the whole season, and if you’re not getting better each and every day, then you’re going to get passed,” Drew said. “Turnover rates have gradually been improving. We had five against Villanova, which is amazing. Hopefully we can be a single digit turnover team or less.”

As improvement comes throughout the season, redshirt senior Freddie Gillespie is focused on the game in front of him and in keeping the Hawks from the upset.

“This team is due for a win, but it’s not going to be against us,” Gillespie said.

The Bears will tip off at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center. The game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now through ESPN+.