WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor made its season debut in the Top 25, then had to make its free throws to avoid an upset on the same day.
Johnathan Motley’s tip-in with 6:09 left was the last basket for the No. 22 Bears on Monday night, but the Bears made 11 of their 12 free throws the rest of the way to hold on for a 70-66 win over Southern University.
“That’s a positive,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “That means you’re getting the ball to the rim and putting pressure on the defense and getting fouled.”
The Bears (10-1), a Sweet 16 team last season, are no stranger to being in the poll. They have now been ranked at some point in eight consecutive seasons.
Baylor also has never lost to a SWAC team, but had a hard time shaking the Jaguars (3-10), who scored the most points against the Bears this season.
“Even when we play what I think is good enough to win, we still don’t play good enough to win because these are really good basketball teams,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “I guess you have to evaluate on how they compete, and I thought they competed well.”
Rico Gathers had 16 points with 11 rebounds for Baylor. Kenny Chery had 11 points and seven assists.
Motley, a freshman, had 19 points. His two free throws with 42 seconds left in the first half put Baylor ahead to stay after Southern used a 12-0 run to take the lead, and he also made his only two free throws in that final stretch.
Adrian Rodgers had 26 points for the Jaguars. Trelun Banks scored 13 and Tre Lynch 11.
After Motley’s tip-in, the Bears led 59-51.
Baylor managed to push ahead 66-55 with 3:32 left before Rodgers hit consecutive 3-pointers. That was during a span when he scored 15 consecutive points for Southern — the last on a jumper with 29 seconds left to get his team within 68-63.
In the first half, the Bears had a 30-19 lead when Gathers had a layup with 4:23 left.
Banks then made back-to-back 3-pointers to spark Southern’s big run, and a layup by Lynch put the Jaguars up 31-30 with a minute left in the first half.
Baylor: The Bears marked their eighth consecutive season making an appearance in the Top 25 on Monday. The only other Big 12 team to do that is No. 10 Kansas, which lost at Temple on Monday night. … Baylor has won 11 consecutive home games.
Southern: The Jaguars have outscored their opponents in the second half, 411-395.
WINNING VS. THE SWAC
Baylor is 47-0 all-time against current SWAC members, including a 7-0 mark against Southern. The Bears previously beat Texas Southern and Prairie View this season.
Baylor has now made a 3-point basket in 743 consecutive games since going 0-for-8 from long range against Texas Tech on Feb. 21, 1990. The Bears were only 4-of-14 on 3-pointers Monday night, while Southern was 6-of-16.
Baylor hosts Norfolk State on Dec. 30.
Southern plays at Hawaii on Dec. 29.
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