Hardin-Simmons-Baylor Preview

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Following its lone defeat a month ago, Baylor has never looked back.

Though the No. 16 Bears have reason to glance further into the future as their schedule gets a little tougher, they'll have a good opportunity to work on some things against Division-III Hardin-Simmons on Wednesday night in Fort Hood, Texas.

Since shooting a season-low 39.3 percent and recording its lowest point total in a 74-67 loss at then-No. 25 Oregon on Nov. 16, Baylor (7-1) has scored more than 75 all but once and allowed one opponent to reach 70 while winning six in a row.

"It's a long season and coach (Scott) Drew emphasized that we shouldn't focus too much on games behind us, but rather focus on the game in front of us," sophomore guard Al Freeman said.

The Bears will take the court for the first time since a 75-62 win over Northwestern State last Tuesday. Senior Rico Gathers scored a career-high 31 points and pulled down 21 rebounds as Baylor didn't show any real signs of letting down after 69-67 victory over then-No. 16 Vanderbilt two days earlier.

"We were focused coming in," said Freeman, who had 15 points.

Averaging career highs of 15.1 points and 11.8 boards, Gathers posted the second 20-point, 30-rebound game in school history. He can record five straight double-doubles for the first time in his career Wednesday.

''He plays within himself extremely well,'' said Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy. ''So many times, players try to get outside of who they are, and he is just very good at what he does.''

Freeman is glad he has the 6-foot-8, 275-pound Gathers for a teammate.

"I'll be on the court watching this guy go beast mode and I think to myself that I'm just glad I'm on his team," Freeman said. "He's a freak athlete and there aren't many like him. Rico Gathers is one of a kind."

Leading scorer Taurean Prince (15.9 ppg) isn't too bad, either. After scoring 30 against Vanderbilt, he had 11 on 5-of-13 shooting but recorded a season-high 13 boards in the most recent contest.

"Baylor has an excellent team and a lot of talent," said McConathy, whose program was the last nonconference team to win at Baylor on Dec. 4, 2012.

Baylor gets another tune-up before visiting former Big 12 rival and 24th-ranked Texas A&M on Saturday. The Bears then follow with home games against New Mexico State and Texas Southern before traveling to Kansas to open conference play Jan. 2.

The Bears have beaten Hardin-Simmons (6-4) twice during their 31-game home nonconference winning streak, but will meet this time some 60 miles away from their Waco campus. Gathers had 17 points with nine rebounds and Prince scored 13 as Baylor shot 63.3 percent during a 104-59 win over the Cowboys on Dec. 1, 2013.

This will be an exhibition game for Hardin-Simmons, which averages 83.4 points but allows 80.9. The Cowboys are paced by juniors Justin Jones (14.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and Nathaniel Jack (10.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg).