A four-game winning streak - and turmoil in the Top 25 - has allowed Baylor to jump into the rankings for the first time this season. The Bears' next opponent doesn't appear to have a great chance to knock them out.
Baylor plays its final game before the holiday break Monday night when it hosts Southern University.
The Bears (9-1) played only once last week, defeating New Mexico 66-55 on Wednesday, but that was enough to allow it to enter the poll at No. 22. Helping its cause was four teams falling out due to a series of upsets.
Baylor was hardly dominant against the Lobos, shooting 52 percent on free throws and 39.3 percent from the field, but it got 16 points from Johnathan Motley and 12 rebounds - six offensive - and seven steals from Rico Gathers. The Bears also went 7 of 15 from 3-point range.
''We always shoot free throws. Maybe we shouldn't shoot free throws. It would save us a lot of practice time. We can't do worse,'' coach Scott Drew said.
Drew's team is shooting 61.4 percent from the line - among the poorest marks in the country. The defensive play of the 275-pound Gathers helped Baylor overcome the bad foul shooting, as he set a career high in steals.
You'll have games where you don't shoot very well. ... A lot of shots weren't falling, but like we say, the beat goes on, we still got the W - that's the most important thing," Gathers said. "I think the biggest thing was the eight days off that we had, because of finals and stuff, just getting back in our routine.
"The whole week we had been rusty in practice, but like I said, the most important thing was getting the W."
Motley, averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds, has totaled 37 and 16 in the past two games.
The win was Baylor's 10th straight at home, and they've won 21 in a row there against nonconference opponents.
Tre Lynch, who leads Southern with 14.0 points per game, was held to five on 2-of-5 shooting. He had averaged 19.0 in his previous four games.
Trelun Banks (10.3 ppg) went 2 of 9 and scored five points.
Baylor has won all six meetings with Southern, outscoring the Jaguars by 20.8 points. The most recent came last Dec. 22, an 81-56 home victory in which Gathers had 12 points and eight rebounds and the Bears held a 45-30 scoring edge in the second half.
Following this game, Baylor is off until Dec. 30.