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Bears hit road to battle Tigers

Feb. 23, 2001

Bears take on MU after 2-game skid

By ROB SINCLAIR

Sports writer

The Baylor men's basketball team hits the road Saturday for a battle with the University of Missouri inside the already sold-out Hearnes Center in Columbia. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.

'We're not worried about the crowd,' forward Jason Pritchard said. 'We have to get off on the right foot. The five guys on the court are what we're worried about.'

Baylor comes in at 16-8 overall and 5-8 in the Big 12 Conference after back-to-back losses to the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas. Mizzou counters with a 17-9 overall mark and 8-5 Big 12 record. The Tigers are also 12-1 at home this year.

The fact that Missouri has been able to stay in the upper echelon of the conference is impressive when one considers that the Tigers have been without the services of guard Kareem Rush for close to two weeks. The Big 12's leading scorer at the time of his injury, Rush had surgery to repair ligament damage in his left thumb and best-case projections have him returning for MU's season-finale against the University of Kansas.

In his absence, guards Clarence Gilbert and Brian Grawer have stepped up to lead Mizzou in scoring in four of the last five games. For the season, Gilbert is averaging 17 points per game and leads the Tigers in assists. Grawer is MU's primary three-point shooter, averaging 9.1 points per game on 43 percent long-range shooting. In Big 12 play, however, the numbers increase to 11.2 points per game and better than 48 percent from behind the arc.

'They have lots of scorers even without Rush,' guard Matt Sayman said. 'Gilbert and Grawer are really good shooters, and they've got guys who can rebound.'

The men most responsible for cleaning the glass are center Arthur Johnson and forward Tajudeen Soyoye, with 8.0 and 6.7 rebounds per game, respectively. With the pair playing as physically as they do, Baylor's big men will have to stay out of foul trouble, a problem that robbed the Bears of forward Greg Davis and center Steven Othoro in the loss to Texas.

'To stay out of foul trouble is extremely important,' Pritchard said. 'We have to keep them off the boards.'

Of course, the bottom line for the Bears to grab a big win on the road is executing their offense and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them, something they didn't do against the Longhorns.

'[Head] Coach [Dave] Bliss always has us prepared,' Sayman said. 'It comes down to us making shots.'

Although the Bears are straddled with eight conference losses, a trip to the post-season is not out of the picture. While an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is unlikely, Baylor does have a good chance at landing in the NIT. The University of California won last year's NIT, and had 11 losses going in. For now though, Baylor must stick to the cliché of one game at a time.

'If we play like we can then hopefully we'll get a win,' Pritchard said. 'The post-season would be great, but we need to try and win the next game.'