Charleston Southern-Baylor Preview
Looking to build on a promising offensive effort, Baylor has one more hurdle to clear on the mainland before heading to Hawaii to continue play in the Maui Invitational.
The No. 20 Bears try for a ninth straight victory as they host high-scoring Charleston Southern on Wednesday night.
After shooting a combined 41.7 percent in wins over Colorado and South Carolina, Baylor (3-0) found its touch during an 87-68 home victory over Louisiana on Sunday in an opening-round, campus-site game of the Maui-based tournament.
Point guard Kenny Chery had 20 points, four assists and no turnovers, and Brady Heslip scored 19 as the Bears shot 58.7 percent to easily prevail after escaping with a two-point win over the Gamecocks last Tuesday.
"When you shoot 59 percent, you're happy with that," said coach Scott Drew, whose team faces Chaminade on Monday in Maui but could meet ranked foes Gonzaga and Syracuse in the ensuing rounds.
"A lot of positives but also a lot of areas we can keep getting better in. The most important thing is that we keep teaching after wins not losses."
While Heslip is averaging a team-leading 16.3 points, Chery is doing his part to help the Bears find some offensive consistency. The junior college transfer and Montreal native is averaging 14.3 points on 15-of-26 shooting while committing four turnovers in three games.
"Since Day 1 he's been very diligent and coachable," Drew said. "He doesn't try to do too much and has been a great teammate. It's hard to go 7 for 10 with 20 points, four assists and zero turnovers, but he's been very good in practice and we felt comfortable that he was going to be successful."
Baylor, riding its longest win streak since starting 17-0 in 2011-12, also knows that defense could be key to the program's success. While reaching the regional finals of the NCAA tournament twice and winning the 2013 NIT over the last four seasons, the Bears have allowed their opponents to shoot 40.5 percent.
They've held their first three to 34.4 percent while 7-foot-1 sophomore Isaiah Austin has blocked 13 shots in 81 minutes.
"We know how important defense is," Drew said. "I think so far so good. We can get better, but so far so good."
The Bears' defense will be put to the test against Charleston Southern (2-2), which ranks among the national leaders averaging 99.0 points on 52.7 percent shooting. The Buccaneers opened with two victories before falling 80-78 in overtime to UNC-Wilmington and 109-93 to then-No. 22 New Mexico on Sunday.
"I like the way they play," Lobos coach Craig Neal said. "They've got really good guards and the little guy can play and he's got a big heart."
Neal was referring to 5-foot-8 Saah Nimley, who averages 17.8 points to lead five Charleston Southern players scoring at least 10.3 per game. Nimley will likely be matched up with Chery after finishing with 24 points, 12 assists and four steals against New Mexico.
"Saah Nimley, pound for pound, is the best point guard in the country," Buccaneers coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "I didn't say he's the best point guard in the country. I said pound for pound, inch for inch, you won't find a better undersized point guard in America than Saah."