WACO, Texas (AP) — Rico Gathers set career highs with 25 points and a Big 12-record 28 rebounds, and No. 21 Baylor finally pulled away in the second half for an 81-61 win over NAIA school Huston-Tillotson on Wednesday night.
With their two senior starters both getting a night off, the Bears (14-4) trailed by as many as nine points early. They led 37-36 at halftime only after Taurean Prince’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that was part of a 10-2 run.
Shai Fields had 27 points with five 3-pointers for the Rams (3-13).
Baylor opened the second half with a 13-3 run in which Gathers and Prince scored all the points, including consecutive dunks to push the lead to 50-39 less than five minutes after halftime.
Gathers broke Baylor’s nearly 60-year-old single-game rebounding record on a putback basket while being fouled with 4:22 left. He added the free throw before coming out of the game with the Bears up 77-53.
Jerry Mallett had 27 rebounds for Baylor against North Texas on Feb. 1, 1955. The Big 12 record had been 24 by Michael Beasley for Kansas State against Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007.
Gathers got his 27th rebound when he grabbed a miss, then immediately got No. 28 on the ensuing missed tip-in. He secured the ball between three defenders and went right back up for the score.
Prince had 13 points and Al Freeman scored 10.
Royce O’Neale and Kenny Chery, the only Baylor players averaging more than 30 minutes per game, got a planned night off even though they were in uniform.
Fields hit a long 3 only 10 seconds into the game for Huston-Tillotson, a school of less than 1,000 students in Austin. When he hit his third 3-pointer less than seven minutes into the game, he already had 13 points and the Rams led 23-14.
Huston-Tillotson was up 34-27 when Fields made another 3, but the Rams missed their last eight shots in the final 4:50 of the half.
Gathers had 11 points and 16 rebounds by halftime, including a tying putback in the final minute. Fields hit two free throws before Baylor missed a shot and called timeout with 2 seconds left to set up a play. Prince made the 3-pointer off an inbounds pass from Freeman.
Huston-Tillotson: This was Huston-Tillotson’s fourth game this season against an NCAA Division I opponent. The Rams lost the first three — vs. Incarnate Word, Texas State and Lamar — by an average of 30.3 points. The closest had been their 85-59 loss at Lamar on Dec. 30.
Baylor: Baylor is the only Division I team this season that has held all of its non-conference opponents to 66 points or fewer.
Huston-Tillotson is home Friday night against University of the Southwest.
Baylor hosts No. 19 Oklahoma on Saturday.
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