Baylor coach Scott Drew saw the hangover script play out six years ago and didn’t want to experience anything like it again.
On Dec. 1, 2012, the Bears went to Rupp Arena and pulled off a stunning 64-55 win to snap Kentucky’s 55-game home winning streak.
Still giddy from the monumental win, the Bears dropped a 74-70 decision to Northwestern at the Ferrell Center three days later.
Last Saturday, Baylor snapped Arizona’s 52-game home nonconference winning streak with a 58-49 win. Three days later, the Bears watched SFA’s Shannon Bogues glide downcourt for a layup at the buzzer to steal a 59-58 win at the Ferrell Center.
Drew hopes the Bears can learn from that experience and play with the energy they need from the opening tip against Oregon at 6 p.m. Friday at the Ferrell Center.
“I think energy is consistency,” Drew said. “And human nature is human nature. You come off a big win, you get back late Sunday night, Monday is a quick turnaround. Tuesday, obviously, SFA, it’s a big game for them. It should have been a big game for us. We didn’t play like that.”
The loss to the Lumberjacks epitomized the roller coaster track the Bears (6-4) have been on this season. Such inconsistency is no shock for a team that returned only three players from last season and is still trying to find cohesiveness with Oregon and a Dec. 29 game against New Orleans remaining before opening Big 12 play at TCU on Jan. 5.
“Every game is such a learning experience for first-year players,” Drew said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a transfer, junior college, a freshman, it’s your first go-around with things with us. The great thing is our program is a big game for a lot of people, so you have to be on your ‘A’ game to win those games.”
Oregon (8-3) is riding a four-game winning streak, but the Ducks have one thing in common with the Bears. They’ve both lost home games to Texas Southern. The Bears opened the season with a 72-69 loss to Texas Southern on Nov. 6 while the Ducks dropped an 89-84 decision to the Tigers on Nov. 26.
The Ducks are led by 7-2 freshman center Bol Bol, who is averaging 21 points and 9.6 rebounds and is expected to be a high NBA draft pick. But he’s missed the last two games with a foot injury and his status is unclear for Friday night. Forward Abu Kigab also missed Oregon’s last game against Florida A&M with an ankle injury.
If Bol plays, the game would feature an intriguing matchup in the middle. Baylor forward Tristan Clark is averaging 14.1 points and 5.8 rebounds, and leads the nation with a 79.2 field goal percentage by hitting 57 of 72 shots.
In Baylor’s loss to SFA, the 6-9 sophomore hit all nine field goal attempts and scored 24 points while grabbing seven rebounds and collecting three steals.
“He (Bol) is an incredible player,” Clark said. “He’s 7-2 and can handle the ball and shoot, and he’ll be at the next level for sure. So I’m very excited to go against him. It will be a good challenge for me as well as my teammates.”
Besides Bol, guard Payton Pritchard is the only other Oregon player averaging double-figure scoring with a 13.0 average while dishing out 4.6 assists per game.
Despite Clark’s accuracy, the Bears have struggled with their shooting most of the season. They’re shooting just 43.8 percent overall and a dismal 27.9 percent from 3-point range. In the loss to SFA, the Bears went four for 24 from 3-point range.
“We have to shoot the 3 better,” said Baylor guard King McClure. “We’re way better than what the numbers have been saying as far as shooting.”
Nobody has struggled more with his shooting than sophomore forward Mario Kegler, who has hit 31 percent overall and two of 17 3-pointers in four games since sitting out the first six games of the season for an unspecified violation of team rules.
But McClure doesn’t expect Kegler to stay in his shooting slump for long.
“He’s a real good shooter,” McClure said. “He can really score at all three levels. It takes a while to get your legs under you and get used to playing and running up and down and playing at a hard pace and being able to knock down shots too. We’ve got faith in him. He’ll get it going.”