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No. 12 Baylor looks for 5th straight win when hosting Nicholls State

Nov 23, 2022; Waco, Texas, USA;  Baylor Bears forward Jalen Bridges (11) shoots a free throw against the McNeese State Cowboys during the second half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Baylor will look to build on a four-game winning streak and keep some momentum rolling when it hosts Nicholls State on Wednesday in Waco, Texas, in its final tune-up for its upcoming Big 12 Conference gauntlet.

The Bears (9-2) have been off since Dec. 20 when they handled feisty Northwestern State 58-48 at home behind a balanced offensive attack led by Jalen Bridges’ 13 points and seven rebounds along with some key defensive stops through the midway part of the second half.

The win, Baylor’s only game of the week, allowed the Bears to stay in 12th in the latest rankings.

Baylor led by just two points at halftime but forged a decisive 14-0 run over a 4 1/2-minute span early in the second half to create some separation. The Bears then secured the win at the free-throw line, with Langston Love and Caleb Lohner making two late foul shots each and Lohner ending things with a dunk with 1:02 to play.

“Second half, I thought our shot selection was better,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We had some good looks on 3s, and if we have good looks and miss them, I can live with that. We just have to get rebounds. And for them to (outscore us 16-14 in second-chance points), that’s not acceptable. That’s not good enough.”

Dale Bonner and LJ Cryer added 11 points apiece for the Bears in the victory. Baylor played without guard Adam Flagler, who was sick. The Bears shot just 38.9 percent from the floor.

Bridges canned two 3-pointers after having missed 19 of 20 shots from distance in his previous seven games.

“This is easily the worst I’ve ever shot,” said Bridges, who transferred from West Virginia in the offseason. “But every day, my teammates lifted me up, telling me to keep shooting, have faith in myself, believe in myself. And that’s really all you could ask for in a group of guys. So, every time I was open, I just let it fly.”

The Colonels (6-6) head to Waco after a dominating 90-46 win at home over Trinity Baptist College on Dec. 19. Nicholls State, which was playing its third game in five days and coming off a 68-66 loss at then-No. 17 Mississippi State on the road, was none the worse for the wear in rolling to a 53-12 lead at halftime and waltzing to its third win in its past four games.

It was the Colonels’ third home win this season by at least 40 points.

Caleb Huffman paced Nicholls State with 19 points while hitting 8-of-9 shots from the floor. Lance-Amir Paul added 13 points while Marek Nelson and Latrell Jones scored 12 points and Manny Littles racked up 10 points and took 16 rebounds.

The Colonels hit 50 percent of its field goals including 10 of their 25 attempts from beyond the arc and forced 22 turnovers they converted into 26 points in the win.

“We are growing — these last three weeks after the second half against UC Irvine — we’ve been playing incredible basketball,” Nicholls State coach Austin Claunch said. “We’ve been team-based and we’ve been doing a lot of really good things that are going to transfer over into team play.”

–Field Level Media