Baylor coach Scott Drew hopes his team can build on the lessons it has learned during a tough final stretch. Now it'll be cautious not to overlook last-place TCU in what appears to be a rare breather.
The 19th-ranked Bears go after their third win in four games Saturday night when they try to extend their dominance over the host Horned Frogs since becoming league rivals three years ago.
After dropping three of their previous four games, the Bears (20-8, 9-6) turned things around with a 100-91 overtime home win over then-No. 13 Iowa State on Feb. 16 and a 78-64 road victory at then-No. 24 Texas last Saturday. They had lost five of their previous seven versus ranked foes.
Baylor sought to keep it going Tuesday against a Kansas team that dealt it a 28-point loss Jan. 2. The motivated Bears took the lead at halftime on Rico Gathers' first career 3-pointer and went up by as many as eight before failing to hold on down the stretch in a 66-60 home defeat.
"I think we have seen a marked improvement from the first time we played them," Drew said.
The Bears are certainly playing better defensively, limiting opponents to 65 points per game in their last two after allowing an average of 76.8 in their previous eight. Tied for fourth in the Big 12 with Texas, they'll visit No. 3 Oklahoma and host No. 14 West Virginia in their final two.
"There are no moral victories, but I like how we are headed in the right direction and we need to keep building off it," Drew added. "These games will hopefully prepare us for games later (on)."
Al Freeman finished with 17 points Tuesday, though it's been more than a month since he's scored in double figures in back-to-back games.
Gathers, who missed the Iowa State game with the flu and was limited versus Texas, has averaged 14 points and 14.3 rebounds in his last three versus TCU. Terry Maston led the way with a career-high 17 points and Gathers had 11 with eight boards in an 82-54 home win Jan. 13.
The Bears shot 63.3 percent and outrebounded the Horned Frogs 36-19 in the contest. They've won eight in a row in this series by an average of 19.8 points since TCU joined the Big 12.
However, that run nearly ended in their last trip to Fort Worth. Gathers had 17 points and 18 rebounds and Taurean Prince added 17 and 10 as Baylor escaped with a 66-59 overtime win Jan. 10, 2015.
Chauncey Collins, who had 11 on 3-of-9 shooting in the first meeting this season, enters this game on a roll after scoring a career-high 29 in Tuesday's 83-79 loss at Texas Tech.
It was the most points by a Horned Frog since Kyan Anderson dropped 29 in a 91-58 home loss to Baylor on Feb. 12, 2014. Collins, a sophomore guard, is averaging 18.5 over his last four games.
TCU (11-17, 2-13), which ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring (67.3) and field-goal percentage (40.8), should be prepared for Baylor's zone defense after a first-half switch led to its demise in January.
The Horned Frogs, losers in four straight, may have to snap a 13-game losing streak versus ranked opponents without forwards Karviar Shepherd (back) and Devonta Abron (thigh).