Rico Gathers scored 14 points Wednesday night, and Baylor needed every one of them. The No. 22 Bears (13-3) defended their home court against No. 11 Iowa State (12-3), winning by the slimmest of margins, 74-73.
“It was definitely a big win,” the Baylor forward said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Our first home win of conference play.”
Baylor was actually up 46-34 at halftime, but Iowa State closed the gap in a hurry.
“It’s all about being poised, man, especially during conference play,” Gathers said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and we were able to come out victorious just by being able to get that last stop at the end.”
As if the 14 points weren’t enough, Gathers also had a game-high 15 rebounds.
“Yeah, that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s how I make my money in Waco. I know what I have to do for my team. Fifteen boards tonight, 18 in the last game against TCU – that really speaks for itself. That’s really been my game since my freshman year. So I just stick with it, just adding to it every day, working on new things every day – but knowing I got to be the best rebounder for my team to be successful.”
Baylor and Iowa State combined for 19 three-pointers and 10 blocked shots.
“In the Big 12, our refs like to let us decide the game,” Gathers said. “You really don’t get too many foul calls, but we was able to get stops down the (stretch).”
The Bears displayed remarkable balance, as Gathers, Royce O’Neale (15), Johnathan Motley (14) and Kenny Chery (13) all had between 13 and 15 points.
Baylor has now won two straight after dropping two straight to Oklahoma and Kansas, both of which are ranked in the top 20. Is it time for the Bears to get some more love?
“At the end of the day, we ain’t looking for love,” Gathers said. “We’re just trying to get wins and keep the win streak going and just do the things that we got to do as a team and control the things that we got to control. At the end of the day, people are going to speak their own opinions. At the end of the day, we can’t let that dictate how we play. But we do play with a chip on our shoulder when people count us out.”
Baylor plays ranked teams in three of its next five games, including No. 18 Oklahoma, No. 24 Oklahoma State and No. 20 Texas. All of them figure to be pretty close, especially since three of the Bears’ last four games have been decided in overtime or by one point.
“I definitely think the Big 12 is wide open this year,” Gathers said. “I don’t feel like there’s one particular dominant team, and I don’t feel that there’s going to be one particular dominant team because our conference is so tough, especially in the last nine games. That’s when teams really peak.”