WACO (AP) – Rico Gathers had an appropriate finish to his record-breaking, rebound-per-minute performance for No. 21 Baylor.
Gathers grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds that led to a three-point play, giving him career highs of 25 points and a Big 12-record 28 rebounds Wednesday night. He helped the Bears finally pull away in the second half for an 81-61 win over NAIA school Huston-Tillotson.
“My teammates, they were keeping me updated throughout the last 4 or 5 minutes, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get such and such.’ Then it became the coaches and stuff,” Gathers said.
Gathers, who played 28 minutes, broke Baylor’s nearly 60-year-old single-game rebounding record on a putback while being fouled with 4:22 left. He came out of the game after adding the free throw that gave Baylor (14-4) a 77-53 lead.
“Strong and he’s hard to guard,” Huston-Tillotson coach Thomas Henderson said. “He’s just like a monster on the boards.”
Jerry Mallett had 27 rebounds for Baylor against North Texas on Feb. 1, 1955. The Big 12 record had been 24 by Michael Beasley for Kansas State against Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007.
Gathers got his 27th rebound when he grabbed a Baylor miss, then immediately got No. 28 on the ensuing missed tip-in. He secured the ball between three defenders and went right back up for the score. He had 11 offensive rebounds.
“That’s something I can tell my grandkids until, of course, 50 years later or maybe next year somebody else breaks it,” he said. “My teammates pushed for that. And just having their support, that made me want to go get the record even more, just so I could do that for them.”
With their two senior starters both getting a night off, the Bears trailed by as many as nine points early. They led 37-36 at halftime only after Taurean Prince’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that was part of a 10-2 run.
Shai Fields had 27 points with five 3-pointers for the Rams (3-13).
Baylor opened the second half with a 13-3 run in which Gathers and Prince scored all the points, including consecutive dunks to push the lead to 50-39.
Prince had 13 points and Al Freeman scored 10.
Malcolm Ballard added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Huston-Tillotson.
Fields hit a long 3 only 10 seconds into the game for Huston-Tillotson, a school of less than 1,000 students in Austin. When he hit his third 3-pointer less than seven minutes into the game, he already had 13 points and the Rams led 23-14.
But they missed their last eight shots of the half after Fields made another 3 for a 34-27 lead with 4:51 left.
Gathers had 11 points and 16 rebounds by halftime, including a tying putback in the final minute. Fields hit two free throws before Baylor missed a shot and called a timeout with 2 seconds left to set up a play. Prince made the 3-pointer off an inbounds pass from Freeman.
Royce O’Neale and Kenny Chery, the only Baylor players averaging more than 30 minutes per game, got a planned night off even though they were in uniform.
Coach Ken Carter, who was played by Samuel L. Jackson in a movie about him a decade ago, was in the stands. There was a plan at one time for the 56-year-old Carter to be in uniform and on the floor playing for Huston-Tillotson. The game against Baylor was set to be part of another planned movie about Carter’s life. That was part of the reason Baylor played the NAIA school in the middle of its Big 12 schedule. The Bears played the game even without Carter playing and no movie footage needed.
TAKE A BREAK
O’Neale started each of the first 17 games, playing 30.4 minutes per game. Chery led the team with 31.5 minutes a game, but missed five starts because of a foot injury.
Huston-Tillotson: This was Huston-Tillotson’s fourth game this season against an NCAA Division I opponent. The Rams lost the first three — vs. Incarnate Word, Texas State and Lamar — by an average of 30.3 points. The closest had been their 85-59 loss at Lamar on Dec. 30.
Baylor: The Bears are the only Division I team this season that has held all of its non-conference opponents to 66 points or fewer. … Baylor is 29-4 against in-state opponents since 2011-12.
Huston-Tillotson is home Friday night against University of the Southwest.
Baylor hosts No. 19 Oklahoma on Saturday.
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