Texas A&M-Baylor Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Off to the best start in school history, Baylor is getting ready to begin conference play.
The fourth-ranked Bears will try to remain one of four unbeaten teams in Division I in their Big 12 opener at home against Texas A&M on Monday night.
Baylor, which moved up two spots in this week's AP poll, has started 13-0 for the first time by matching the longest win streak in school history set in 1946. The Bears and top-ranked Syracuse, No. 7 Missouri and No. 19 Murray State are the only perfect squads.
"I am very proud of them to have the opportunity to do that and very pleased," coach Scott Drew said. "If you start out 13-0 in college basketball with the parity today, that is going to get you in a lot of record books."
This was a matchup of top-20 teams based on the preseason rankings, which had the Bears at No. 12 and Texas A&M (9-3) at No. 20. The Aggies, however, have stumbled a bit under first-year coach Billy Kennedy by losing two of three heading into Monday.
"Obviously Baylor's one of the best teams in the country," Kennedy said. "Their talent and their length, they look like they have really good chemistry. They're getting great guard play."
Baylor has been vulnerable in its last two games, needing overtime to beat West Virginia 83-81 on Dec. 23 and winning 54-52 on Wednesday over Mississippi State in Dallas. Pierre Jackson drove for the go-ahead layup with 28 seconds left to beat the Bulldogs.
Jackson missed eight of 12 shots before converting his winning basket.
"I just give credit to all my teammates because they keep me up and make me stay positive through all of it," said Jackson, who hit a tying 3-pointer to send the West Virginia game to overtime.
The Bears shot a season-low 34.5 percent Wednesday as top scorer Quincy Acy was held to a season-worst seven points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Baylor prevailed by limiting the Bulldogs to 40.7 percent shooting and holding a 40-32 edge on the glass.
Rebounding was a concern for the Aggies when they were beaten on the boards in their consecutive losses They recovered with a 47-28 advantage in Thursday's 76-58 home rout of Arkansas Tech.
Ray Turner had a career-high 15 rebounds to go with 15 points. Turner totaled five boards in the back-to-back defeats.
"The guards have been getting on the bigs to make sure we rebound more, going hard for the glass and not giving up," Turner said. "Whoever is your opponent, just make sure you can get it before they do and box out."
The Aggies have struggled as the Big 12's lowest scoring team with 64.8 points per game. Their success is based on a defense that is limiting opponents to 35.7 percent shooting for the nation's third-best mark.
Bears star Perry Jones averaged 21.5 points on 55.2 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds in two wins over the Aggies last season.
"I know we struggled with them last year and I think they're a lot better than they were last year," Kennedy said. "So it's going to be quite a challenge."
Updated January 2, 2012