Waco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The 18th-ranked Baylor Bears return to the mainland on Sunday afternoon when they play host to the Hardin Simmons Cowboys at the Ferrell Center.
Hardin Simmons, which plays its basketball out of the American Southwest Conference at the Division III level, opened up the season with three home games, but dropped all three. The Cowboys played on Saturday afternoon, losing to Texas-Dallas, 80-57.
Baylor opened up the campaign with six straight wins, including early victories in the Maui Invitational over Chaminade (93-77) and Dayton (67-66) to advance to the championship game. However, in a battle of nationally-ranked teams, the Bears were bested by Syracuse last Wednesday, 74-67, for their first loss of the season.
These neighboring Lone Star State schools, located less than 200 miles from one another, have faced off 29 times, with Baylor holding a 17-12 advantage. The Bears dismantled the Cowboys last January in Waco, 107-38.
Hardin Simmons fell behind by 29 points at the half of its latest game and never sniffed the lead the rest of the game. It shot a lousy 33.9 percent from the field on the day, including just 8-of-30 from 3-point range. Jim Walter was able to overcome the struggles of most of his teammates by shooting 6-of-9 from the floor for 17 points, while Charles Sams came off the bench to tally 12 points. On the season, the Cowboys have not fared well on either end of the floor, as they get outshot from the field, 36.5 percent to 48.5 percent, while boasting negative scoring (-9.3) and rebounding (-4.0) margins. Derrick Jefferson is the go-to option, registering 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game on nearly 60 percent from the field. Eric Taylor (12.7 ppg) is the only other player in double figures.
The Bears showed plenty of resiliency in the Maui Invitational championship. They were down 14 with under 12 minutes to play and climbed back to make it a four-point game less than four minutes later, but they would get no closer. It was an impressive shooting night for the squad, who made greater than 55 percent of its field goal tries, but it was ultimately done in by committing 20 turnovers. Cory Jefferson was stellar in the paint with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kenny Chery had 12 points and eight assists, while Brady Heslip also scored 12 points. Isaiah Austin and Royce O'Neale chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Despite the loss, Baylor still presents some outstanding statistics, as it scores 74.7 points per game (6.9 more than it allows) on 48.1 percent from the field and grabs 10.1 rebounds per game more than its opponents, but its turnover trouble (-5.1 margin) is starting to become a trend. Jefferson (13.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Austin (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 bpg) are a great frontcourt duo. Heslip (12.3 ppg) comes off the bench, and Chery (12.0 ppg) is also off to a solid start.