New Mexico St.-Baylor Preview
Baylor is hopeful it can successfully move on from its latest defeat.
The No. 23 Bears are coming off their worst defensive performance of the season and now face one of the nation's top offensive players when they host Pascal Siakam and New Mexico State on Wednesday night.
Baylor (8-2) also played poorly on offense Saturday after averaging 85.6 points and shooting 48.3 percent during a seven-game winning streak. That ended with an 80-61 loss at then-No. 24 Texas A&M as the Bears were held to season lows for points and field-goal shooting (35.6 percent) while getting outrebounded (45-40) for the first time.
Rather than lament his team's shortcomings, coach Scott Drew praised the Aggies while believing his Bears can use that lopsided result as a foundation to fine-tune their play.
"Win or lose, you learn a lot and can improve a lot," said Drew, whose squad never led and trailed by as many as 29.
Besides the shooting and rebounding issues, Baylor allowed an opponent to score more than 75 points for the first time since February 2014 and gave up a season-worst 47.6 percent shooting.
"At the end of the day I know we'd much rather have this happen now than happen in conference," Drew said. "It's definitely a good learning experience for our team."
Rico Gathers (14.9 points, 11.8 rebounds per game) pulled down 18 boards but was held to a season-low eight points after totaling 51 in the previous two contests. Taurean Prince (14.6 ppg) also had eight points to match a season low and recorded three rebounds after posting 23 in the previous two.
"The biggest thing is to stay together, stay a family," said senior Lester Medford, who had a season-high 16 points with five assists and five steals. "You can't break down now, it's early in the season."
Before opening Big 12 play at second-ranked Kansas on Jan. 2, the Bears have two seemingly favorable matchups in Waco and are riding a 32-game nonconference home winning streak. Included in that run was a 66-55 victory over New Mexico State (7-5) last December.
"We mixed it up well with them for a while," coach Marvin Menzies told the Aggies' official website after the game.
However, that was before Siakam's emergence. The 6-foot-9 sophomore averaged 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds last season, and had 12 points with four boards at Baylor. He's stepped up this season to rank among the national leaders at 23.4 points and 12.0 rebounds per contest.
The Aggies are 5-1 when he scores at least 24.
New Mexico State shot 49.0 percent that day after hitting 40.9 percent and averaging 59.3 points in its first three road games - all losses.
The Aggies, who have made four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, have lost 18 consecutive games against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 15 Nevada in January 2007.
The Bears were unranked for last year's matchup and held to 39.3 percent shooting as Gathers and Prince totaled just 11 points. Gathers, though, had a career-high seven steals as Baylor forced 19 turnovers.