BYU (8-3) at Baylor (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ferrell Center (10,347) -- Waco, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: BYU 6-0, Baylor 4-2. Away Record: BYU 1-1, Baylor 1-0. Neutral Record: BYU 1-2, Baylor 2-1. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, Baylor 0-0. Series Record: BYU leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: The Baylor Bears close out a four-game homestand on Friday night when they take on the BYU Cougars in a non-conference bout at the Ferrell Center.
BYU's season started off rather modestly at 2-2, which included neutral-court losses to Florida State (88-70) and Notre Dame (78-68) in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, but since then it has been on fire with wins in six of its last seven games. The Cougars won their third straight on Tuesday night, defeating Eastern New Mexico on their home floor by a commanding 95-62 margin.
With the loss of several key performers from last season's dominant 30-win squad, Baylor wasn't expected to be a one of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference this season, but it has put forth an impressive 7-3 start. The Bears are currently winners of back-to-back games, most recently downing USC Upstate at home on Monday night, 73-57.
In eight all-time meetings between the two programs, BYU holds a 5-3 advantage. The two last met in December of 2011, with No. 8 Baylor claiming an 86-83 win in Provo.
The Cougars have been solid at the offensive end of the court this season, draining 45.3 percent of their total shots for an average of 77.1 ppg, and in their 33-point win earlier this week they had their best performance of the year. They made better than 53 percent of their field goal attempts, including 10-of-24 from 3-point range, and were paced by Tyler Haws with 19 points on 9- of-15 from the field. Brandon Davies tallied 17 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks, and both Agustin Ambrosino (14 points, eight boards) and Cory Calvert (10 points) saw extended action off the bench in the blowout win. On the season, Haws and Davies have been one of the best scoring duos in the nation, as the two combine for more than half of the team's points. Haws averages 20.3 ppg and is one of the country's best free throw shooters (.949). Davies mans the paint with 19.2 ppg on 56.3 percent shooting, adding 7.3 rpg and nearly two blocks per contest to his impressive stat line. Brock Zylstra (7.3 ppg) and Matt Carlino (7.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) have also been effective.
Baylor has also shot the ball well to this point in the season, making good on 48.1 percent of its field goal attempts for 76.1 ppg, 10.1 ppg more than its opponents. The Bears put together another outstanding effort in the 16-point win over USC Upstate, draining nearly 50 percent of their shots, although they were off the mark from beyond the arc (4-of-21). Pacing four teammates in double figures was Cory Jefferson, who tallied 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Isaiah Austin logged a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Pierre Jackson (15 points) and A.J. Walton (10 points, eight assists) also made a lasting impact in the victory. The balanced effort was not unusual for Baylor, as it has four players scoring in double figures on a nightly basis. Jackson is the Big 12's top scorer with 19.6 ppg, and he also leads the team with 6.4 apg and 2.1 spg. Corey Jefferson has been outstanding at forward, tallying 13.1 ppg on a fantastic 67.2 percent from the floor, adding 8.3 rpg and 2.6 bpg for good measure. Austin (12.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) give the Bears a great pair in the frontcourt, and Brady Heslip adds 10.6 ppg.
With star power abound in this matchup, there should be plenty of points and highlights to go around for both teams, but in the end, Baylor should be able to feed off the energy in the building to slip past a solid group of Cougars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 79, BYU 77
12/21 10:33:00 ET