ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Being unranked has helped motivate Baylor achieve its best start in eight years.
LaceDarius Dunn scored 27 points, Curtis Jerrells had 22 points and Baylor repelled a late rally to beat No. 14 Arizona State 87-78 Friday night at the 76 Classic.
Henry Dugat added 14 points for the Bears (6-0), who are off to their best start since winning their first 12 games in the 2000-01 season.
“As competitors, we don’t like it,” Jerrells said about his team not being ranked. “But that just gives us a little more hunger. We’ve shown that so far in this tournament.”
Baylor will play No. 19 Wake Forest for the championship Sunday.
“They were the quicker team, the more energetic team throughout most of the second half,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “They really hurt us in transition and that led to good 3-point shooting opportunities.”
James Harden scored a tournament-record 32 points, 24 in the final nine minutes, for the Sun Devils (4-1). Jeff Pendergraph added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Baylor made 11 of 24 shots from 3-point range against Arizona State’s zone defense.
“We like to share the ball,” Jerrells said. “That’s why we’re so flexible against their zone. We can make an extra pass and find an extra player.”
Dunn scored six points during a 14-0 surge that gave Baylor a 53-38 lead with 14:12 to play. But Harden scored 24 points in the final nine minutes as Arizona State narrowed its deficit to 82-78 with 54.4 seconds remaining.
Tweety Carter, Jerrells and Dunn then combined to make five of six free throws in the final to ensure the victory.
The Bears shot 57.1 percent in the second half and had only eight turnovers for the game.
The Sun Devils will face Texas El Paso for third place on Sunday.