Baylor is closing in on the highest ranking in school history.
All the 19th-ranked Bears (11-1) need is a few more wins, and they figure to get one of those victories Wednesday at home against struggling Jackson State (1-10).
After Wednesday’s game, though, the competition gets tougher. Baylor will face South Carolina on Saturday at the Ferrell Center before starting Big 12 play Jan. 10 at home against Texas Tech.
The Bears have already climbed to their highest rank in nearly 40 seasons this week with their first Top 20 appearance since Feb. 11, 1969. Baylor has never been ranked higher than 18th, a mark achieved twice - Jan. 25, 1949 and Jan. 14, 1969.
The Bears have also stayed in the rankings for a school-record five consecutive weeks and won five straight since their poll debut on Dec. 1.
Baylor moved up two spots in this week’s poll and got a start on impressing voters for next week’s with Monday’s 79-66 home victory over Portland State. The Bears took control late in the first half and led by as many as 26 in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought we were a bit more focused and energized, especially defensively to start the second half,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We were very good.”
With 16 points, senior forward Kevin Rogers became the school’s 22nd player to reach 1,000 points and the second in as many games. Henry Dugat scored his 1,000th point on Dec. 22 against Hartford after Curtis Jerrells reached that mark last season.
Last season, Rogers had a team-leading 20 points and 11 rebounds in Baylor’s only meeting with Jackson State, a 100-76 win on Nov. 11, 2007.
Jerrells tops Baylor with 17.1 points per game, but has competition from top reserve LaceDarius Dunn for the scoring lead.
Dunn had one of the best shooting performances of his career Monday, going 8-of-11 on his way to 22 points. The sophomore guard was also 4-of-5 from 3-point range, increasing his scoring average to 16.4 points.
Dunn made his collegiate debut last season against the Tigers, scoring 17 points off the bench.
Baylor is 32-0 all-time against the SWAC and 2-0 this season with wins over Southern and Prairie View A&M.
Jackson State enters Wednesday’s non-conference finale on a five-game losing streak. The Tigers have dropped those games by an 18.4-point average, and all but one of their losses have come by double digits.
They also have one of the worst defenses in the nation, allowing 77.6 points per game. Opponents have also made 49.1 percent of their shots against Jackson State and 39.2 percent from 3-point range.
Junior forward Grant Maxey leads the Tigers with 15.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game but failed to reach double figures for the first time this season in his previous game. Maxey had seven points on 3-of-10 shooting in a 70-51 loss at Southeastern Louisiana.
Jackson State has not played at home this season with nine road games and two on a neutral court at the South Padre Island Invitational. Wednesday’s game in Waco will mark the sixth game in an eight-game road trip.