No. 11 Baylor set to be at full strength vs. Washington St.
Two well-rested teams are set to meet when No. 11 Baylor faces Washington State in the Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge on Sunday in the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Baylor (7-2) has had 11 days off since beating Tarleton 80-57 on Dec. 6, while Washington State (4-5) is playing for the first time since losing 74-70 to UNLV on Dec. 10.
Baylor’s impressive start includes neutral-court wins over UCLA and Gonzaga, but the Bears’ ledger also includes a close defeat to Virginia and a 26-point loss to Marquette.
Coach Scott Drew’s squad cruised to the win over Tarleton despite missing starters LJ Cryer (back injury) and Adam Flagler (illness).
Cryer is averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game, while Flagler is averaging 16.1 points and shooting 51.9 percent from 3-point range.
Drew inserted redshirt freshman Langston Love and senior Dale Bonner into the starting lineup, and the duo responded with a combined 32 points.
Flagler and Cryer are both expected to return against Washington State, which averages 9.3 made 3-point field goals per game, more than any team in the Pac-12.
The contest could be a high-scoring one with Washington State looking to keep pace with the Bears, who average 84.6 points per game.
Washington State faces an uphill battle without starting guard Jabe Mullins (knee), who will miss his fourth consecutive game. The junior is averaging 14.2 points while shooting 56.7 percent from 3-point range.
Both teams are looking forward to the opportunity to play in American Airlines Center, home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
“That’s kind of our dreams, to play in the NBA,” said Baylor freshman guard Keyonte George. “It’s a blessing to be able to play in an arena like that. Not everybody gets an opportunity to do that. So, we’ll go out there, play hard and have fun.”
The Bears are 10-1 against their last 11 Pac-12 opponents, with wins in each of the last six meetings.
Bonner has provided a spark off the bench for Baylor, which is 43-5 against unranked teams over the last three seasons.
The transfer guard from Division II Fairmont State is averaging 6.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.3 steals over his last nine games.
“I know when I’m in the game, I have to bring some type of energy on the defensive end or offensive end,” Bonner said. “Being that energy guy and being able to pick up my teammates when they need me, it’s kind of cool.”
The Bears will need to be careful not to overlook Washington State, which shot 54.2 percent from the field in its last game against UNLV, including 56.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Junior guard TJ Bamba averages a team-high 16.7 points and has scored in double figures for eight straight games. Cougars coach Kyle Smith has also been encouraged by the play of junior guard Justin Powell, who scored 15 points on five 3-pointers versus UNLV.
“I thought it was a really good game for Powell,” Smith said. “We couldn’t afford to take him out. He made very big shots out there, but we didn’t have quite enough juice.”
–Field Level Media