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Soft nonconference schedule designed to build confidence

Nov. 29, 2006

Melea Burke/Lariat staff
Sophomore forward Kevin Rogers, left, sets a pick Monday for Curtis Jerrells' three-pointer against Alcorn State. The sophomore guard is the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 12.4 points per game.

Sports editor

After playing just one game last week, the Baylor basketball team will play its second of three games this week when the Bears take on Grambling State University at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Special Events Center.

With their 90-59 victory over Alcorn State on Monday, the Bears improved their record to 4-1, marking the team's best start since the 2002-03 season. But with the Grambling State game just two nights later, the Bears weren't given much time to think about that.

Senior forward Tim Bush said he enjoys the hectic schedule, and the games will help the inexperienced Bears.

"This is going to be a great week for us, and this is going to be a great experience for these (young) guys to get these games under their belts," Bush said. "The more (experience), the better."

Head Coach Scott Drew said Baylor's nonconference schedule was designed to get his young team some experience and success to build the players' confidence going into Big 12 conference play on Jan. 6.

Of the team's 13 nonconference games, 10 of them are at home and only four of the contests are against teams with winning records.

"With a young team, you just want to get better every day in practice and you have to have that game experience to show them film and work on things," Drew said.

"We're able to accomplish both with this schedule and that's why most (teams in major conferences) have schedules like this.

"If you're busy traveling around and doing those kinds of things, then you're not gaining the confidence and getting your team where they need to be by conference time. We know in the Big 12 there's no night off."

After beating Texas Southern University and Alcorn State earlier this season, Baylor is 23-0 all time against Southwestern Athletic Conference teams, with Grambling State and Prairie View A&M still on the schedule.

Grambling State enters today's contest with a 1-2 record. The Tigers are led by guards Andre Ratliff and Kendric Baker, who are averaging 16.7 and 12.7 points per game respectively.

But the Bears will answer with an impressive set of guards of their own.

Through Baylor's first five games, junior Aaron Bruce, sophomores Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat and freshman Tweety Carter have combined for 45.8 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game and 68 of the team's 81 assists.

Bruce, who is averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 5.8 assists per game, said the team's strength is the players' versatility, but the fact that no one on the team is concerned about individual accomplishments is what makes the Bears unique.

"We just want to win games," he said. "We're all in the position where we can do certain things and will be called upon to do certain things in different games.

"We're all going to have big individual games, but we're not concerned about who has that game; we're just concerned about winning."

The Bears have already seen solid offensive contributions from many different players. Seven Baylor players have had at least one double-digit scoring game and five players have scored at least 15 points in a game.

Bush said the team's chemistry and unselfishness are the keys to the team's success.

"It's impressive how we support each other," he said. "When one guy's having a big night, we get that guy and the ball to continue to help him have a great night just because we have a desire to win."

After their contest with Grambling State, the Bears will have to rebound quickly, as they take on Texas State University at home Saturday to round out the week.

"We'll have a lot of game film to work on and show our guys next week," Drew said.