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Bears need big night to achieve first win at fieldhouse

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Before the season began — and, really, as recent as a couple of weeks ago — Baylor University's men's basketball team figured to be one of the Big 12 programs capable of challenging league favorites Oklahoma State and Kansas. Or, at the very least, the Bears could make things difficult for the league's elite.

Then conference play began for BU like a smack to the face. After starting the season 12-1, Baylor has dropped three of its last four games, which coincided with the beginning of Big 12 play.

A glance at the conference standings shows Kansas alone at the top, with a 4-0 record, while Baylor is next to last, in ninth (ahead of only 0-5 TCU) with a 1-3 mark.

Back in December, long before their recent slide, the Bears beat Kentucky on a neutral floor. However, they lost to the other ranked teams they faced this season: Syracuse (at the Maui Invitational), at Iowa State and their last game, at home against Oklahoma.

BU's back-to-back losses this past week at Texas Tech and vs. OU dropped the Bears 12 spots in the new AP poll, to No. 24.

In the last seven seasons, Baylor is 20-32 on the road in Big 12 play. So one would figure the last place the Bears would want to play next, given their slump and road woes, is Allen Fieldhouse.

Bad news, Bears. Coach Scott Drew brings his team to Lawrence tonight to face No. 8 KU (13-4, 4-0).

Although Baylor has won two of its last three meetings with Kansas, that success didn't come on the road. If the Bears want to achieve a program first and beat Kansas in Lawrence, where they're 0-11, they'll need productive nights from every one of their top eight players.

Cory Jefferson, No. 34

6-9, 220, jr. forward

Baylors Cory Jefferson (34) fires in a shot over Jeff Withey (5) in KU's 81-58 loss to the Baylor Bears Saturday in Waco.

Baylors Cory Jefferson (34) fires in a shot over Jeff Withey (5) in KU's 81-58 loss to the Baylor Bears Saturday in Waco. by Mike Yoder

A fifth-year senior, Jefferson has emerged as Baylor's most reliable scorer. He has reached double figures in 21 of his previous 24 games (dating back to last season) and has 17 double-doubles in his career, with six coming this season.

Baylor is 35-9 all-time when Jefferson reaches double digits in points, and he averages 13.1 a game this season on 53.1-percent shooting, to go with 8.4 rebounds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dCX6-_b8ts

Kenny Cherry, No. 1

5-11, 180, jr. guard

The lead guard contributes 11.9 points a game, but his play-making is even more valuable for Baylor. While Cherry has 16 three-pointers on 51 tries, he leads the team with 5.1 assists an outing.

For 12 straight games, Cherry's assists numbers have outweighed his turnover totals. In the past six games, his assist-to-turnover ratio sits at 28-to-6.

Isaiah Austin, No. 21

7-1, 225, so. center

Kansas guard Travis Releford pulls a rebound away from Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford pulls a rebound away from Baylor center Isaiah Austin during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The largest man in a Baylor uniform does some of his work inside, but he likes to drift out for jumpers, too, and has even taken 10 threes this season, hitting three of them.

Austin wears a prosthetic right eye after his retina detached when he was in junior high, but the rest of his body and his wealth of ability more than make up for that loss. The 7-footer averages 10.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

In just his second season with Baylor, Austin already ranks sixth in program history with 106 blocks (which ties him with Willie Sublett).

The big man has scored at least 10 points in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Gary Franklin, No. 4

6-2, 190, sr. guard

At 6.6 points a game, Franklin doesn't make a ton of baskets, but chances are when he does it will be from three-point range. A whopping 79 of his 100 career field goals as a member of the Bears have been three-pointers.

Franklin has proven himself as a consistent threat from behind the arc. Going back over his past 44 games, he has made 40 percent of his threes (54 of 135) and he is 27 for 68 this season.

Like most of us hope to achieve, Franklin is getting better with age. He has five double-digit scoring outings in his last 13 games after achieving that only twice in his previous 68 appearances for Baylor.

Royce O'Neale, No. 00

6-6, 220, jr. forward

A transfer from Denver, O'Neale has started the last 10 games for Baylor.

He's averaging 6.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists. While O'Neale makes 56.5 percent of his field goals, he's a bad free-throw shooter, at 53.2 percent.

O'Neale's ball-handling certainly can't be blamed for Baylor's recent slump, though. In BU's past six games, he has 17 assists against three turnovers.

Baylor bench

Brady Heslip, No. 5

6-2, 180, sr. guard

Kansas players Travis Releford (24) and Jeff Withey get in the face of Baylor guard Brady Heslip during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Travis Releford (24) and Jeff Withey get in the face of Baylor guard Brady Heslip during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

He puts the shooting in shooting guard. Heslip plays 21.9 minutes a game, but he comes off the bench firing, and his accuracy has a lot to do with Baylor's spot as the top three-point shooting team in the Big 12 (39.3 percent).

The Bears' best three-point marksman, Heslip averages 10.8 points a game this season, and has drained 46 of 99 from downtown (46.5 percent). In fact, he is Baylor's career three-point shooting percentage leader at 42.9.

Fifteen times this season, Heslip has hoisted at least three three-pointers, and in 14 of those games he hit at least two from deep.

In the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Helip cashed in nine from long range to lead Baylor to the Sweet 16.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmWN5PQpa4U

Taurean Prince, No. 35

6-7, 210, so. forward

In Baylor's lone Big 12 victory, over TCU, Prince scored a career high 23 points. He's averaging 8.5 points and 3.4 rebounds this season without starting a single game.

In his last six games, Prince totaled 82 points on just 50 shot attempts. The efficient forward tends to start hot, too. In his last five games he has made 17 of his 25 field goals before halftime.

Rico Gathers, No. 2

6-8, 270, so. forward

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles for a rebound with Baylor players Rico Gathers, left, and Pierre Jackson during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis wrestles for a rebound with Baylor players Rico Gathers, left, and Pierre Jackson during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Baylor's second-best rebounder, Gathers averages 7.7 boards a game. Offensively, he contributes 7.7 points on 53.6-percent shooting (45-for-84).

During Baylor's last 10 games, he's averaging 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds, and Gathers has posted double figures in six of his last eight games.

His 60 offensive rebounds lead Baylor, the top team on the offensive glass in the Big 12 (14.4 a game, 43.5 offensive rebounding percentage).

Comments

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

With all due respect while considering that I have no journalistic credentials, as a KU fan on a KU site, I dislike headlines that hint at potential victories for our opponents. It's ALWAYS bothered me. Just doesn't prompt me to give a good read to the article...

Titus Canby 8 years, 10 months ago

I'm concerned that the headline jinxed us. I would have rather seen "Baylor never misses a free throw."

John Myers 8 years, 10 months ago

Agree 100%, Joe Ross - this reads like something from Baylor's site and ought to be taken down, IMO. Talking about what they need to do to win, and then highlighting every player on their team. Color me confused about this one.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 10 months ago

I agree that the title is a little strange, but I do like the player highlights. I could tell you 100 things about each of the KU players, but not much about most of our opponent's players. It's nice to get that information. As for the title, how about something like, "Examining Baylor as KU Aims to Keep Bears Winless in Fieldhouse." I think it would read better to KU fans.

Rodney Crain 8 years, 10 months ago

I don't mind the article title, sounds like Benton is taking the RED team view of our opponent. I get it.

Benton do you know when the last time a team beat 4 ranked teams in a row? Since 3 was a semi big deal, wonder how long ago someone beat 4.

Benton Smith 8 years, 10 months ago

That's a good question. I'll see if I can dig something up.

Benton Smith 8 years, 10 months ago

Tried to dig up some info on beating four straight ranked times without any success, so I turned to the great Chris Theisen with Kansas Athletics Communications. He provided the following info, via Elias Sports Bureau: The last school to win as many as four consecutive regular season games, all against schools ranked in the AP top 25 was when North Carolina did so in February/March 1997. The Tar Heels beat #4 Wake Forest, #14 Maryland, #12 Clemson, and #7 Duke in four consecutive games. Since then, there have been 58 schools to play at least four consecutive regular-season games against AP-ranked opponents with none of them winning all four games.

Ben Kane 8 years, 10 months ago

This is a fine article and good journalism but the title is a disaster.

should be more related to what the article is about and that is two things: 1. what has happened to Baylor to start the conference. 2. a look at the players.

Should just be called "Breaking down Baylor" or something of the like.

Ben Kane 8 years, 10 months ago

I would have taken the angle of how easily Baylor can come in here and upset a team that isn't ready for them despite their conference record.

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