Title contenders Villanova, Baylor square off in Waco
No. 2 Baylor and No. 6 Villanova collide on Sunday afternoon in Waco, Texas, and the No. 1 spot in the national rankings is likely up for grabs.
No. 1 Purdue, also in action Sunday, lost at Rutgers earlier this week.
The Bears-Wildcats dustup in Texas is part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle and the first-ever non-conference home clash between top-6 ranked teams in Baylor history.
Don't expect the Bears to shy away from the challenge - Baylor has won seven straight games against top-10 ranked teams, defeating teams ranked No. 5, 9, 6, 6, 10, 6 and 1 over that stint.
The Bears (8-0) return to the court after a seven-day break and on the heels of a dominating 99-54 win at home over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 4.
"It's a team where very easily they can win a national championship for a reason," Baylor coach Scott Drew said of Villanova. "When you look at it, they had double-digit leads against UCLA and Purdue. So easily they could be the undefeated No. 1-ranked team at this time."
LJ Cryer led Baylor with 20 points while Jonathan TchamwaTchatchoua added 14 points and 13 rebounds (both career-highs), Matthew Mayer hit for 14 points, Jeremy Sochan scored 12 and Kendall Brown tallied 11 points for the Bears in the win.
The Bears led by 23 points at the half and by 50 late, shot 62.5 percent in the second half and garnered a 49-24 edge in rebounds in the game. Baylor has now won 32 straight nonconference contests and looks as if its hasn't lost a thing after winning its first national championship last season.
"Our guys did a good job executing and getting our feet back wet and playing after being off for a number of days," Drew said after the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. "It gives us a good week to prepare and get ready for Villanova."
The Bears are the only team in the nation ranked in the top-15 in scoring offense (15th, 84.0) and scoring defense (9th, 56.4). Baylor is second nationally in scoring margin, beating teams by an average of 27.6 points per game.
Villanova (7-2) travels to Waco for the first time. The Wildcats are carrying a four-game winning streak, the most recent a 67-53 victory over Syracuse on Dec. 7 as part of the Jimmy V Classic in New York City.
The Wildcats trailed 29-26 at halftime before grabbing the lead midway through the second half and pulling away in the final minutes.
Justin Moore led Villanova with 18 points while Jermaine Samuels added 13 points and 9 rebounds in the win. The Wildcats forged a 57-36 edge on the glass that included 27 offensive rebounds.
"Rebounding is an area we have struggled with at times,"Villanova coach Jay Wright said afterward. "We've been getting better over the last couple of games, and we knew this was going to be a test.
"We struggled in the first half with their zone, and we struggled making shots. Our defensive effort in the second half was outstanding. (Rebounding) was big because in the first half we couldn't make a shot. Offensive rebounding kept us in the game."
Villanova has defeated is past four opponents by an average of 23.5 points and has held six of its nine opponents below the 60-point threshold, including five of the last six contests
The Wildcats are 5-0 this season when holding foes below 60 points in a game. Opponents are averaging 63.1 points per game against Villanova, who's two losses have come at UCLA in overtime and versus top-ranked Purdue in tournament play.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 12, 2021