Top-ranked Baylor will take its stifling defense and the nation’s longest winning streak on the road to face Oregon on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
The Bears (9-0) are coming off Sunday’s 57-36 win over then-No. 6 Villanova. Their suffocating defense held Villanova to its fewest points and shooting percentage (.222) in Jay Wright’s 21 seasons as the Wildcats’ coach. The last time Villanova was held under 40 points was 1979.
“Coming in, I think Villanova was the fourth-best offense in the country and we were the sixth-best offense in the country,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
“So, the defenses were really good against top offenses. Both teams missed shots we normally make, but that can be attributed to the fact that none of the shots were easy early on. What happened was, when you got an open one, you didn’t have a rhythm,” Drew said.
Baylor’s James Akinjo led all scorers with 16 points, Adam Flagler added 10 points and Jeremy Sochan grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Bears. They won by 21 points despite shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor.
“We do what we always do,” Akinjo said after the win. “Coach Drew does a great job of getting us to play (defense), but that’s what separates you. We’ve got a really good team. Everybody can score 1 through 5, but the separator is getting those stops.”
Baylor has an eight-game winning streak against Top 10 teams, beating squads ranked No. 5, 9, 6, 6, 10, 6, 1 and 6 over that stretch. Beating Villanova ran Baylor’s nonconference winning streak to 33 and extended its overall winning streak to 15.
The Bears lost four starters from last year’s 28-2 team that captured the national championship and started the 2021-22 campaign ranked No. 8. Baylor has now been No. 1 at some point in three of the previous five years. The Bears received all 61 first-place votes in the poll, marking Baylor’s first time as a unanimous top choice.
Oregon (6-5) warmed up for the Bears’ visit by dominating visiting Portland 96-71 on Wednesday. N’Faly Dante had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the Ducks. De’Vion Harmon had 19 points, and Quincy Guerrier and Will Richardson added 17 and 16 as the Ducks, who racked up a season-high in points.
“Defensively we’ve just got to get better,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The offense, I think, will come. Right now, we have to ride some defense. Got to put some things together that way. Our communication, our connection, is just not what it needs to be. It’s an uphill battle with us. The first step is everyone buying in and playing hard.”
The Ducks ended a two-game losing streak on Wednesday, but they will have to improve significantly if they are going to stay with Baylor.
“This is on me — I have to get the guys to play harder, get them more connected,” Altman said. “We just haven’t done it. We did take a step (against Portland). That’s what we had to do. We are going to have to take a bunch of steps on Thursday and Friday, get ready for Saturday.”
–Field Level Media