No. 2 Baylor primed for top after 57-36 win over No. 6 Villanova

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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WACO, Texas- James Akinjo had 16 points with seven rebounds and second-ranked Baylor defensively dominated No. 6 Villanova 57-36 on Sunday, a victory that’s likely to put the defending national champion Bears in the top spot in the new poll.

The Bears (9-0) never trailed in their first nonconference home game ever against a top-six opponent, this one a rematch of an NCAA Sweet 16 game last March in Indianapolis. This Big East/Big 12 Battle matchup featured the teams that won three of the last five NCAA titles.

Villanova (7-3) shot only 22% (12 of 54) and had several extended scoring droughts while being held to its fewest points in 689 games under coach Jay Wright, who is in his 21st season. Wright has won two NCAA titles, both in Texas – in Houston in 2016 and San Antonio in 2018.

Adam Flagler had 10 points as Baylor, which won its 15th game in a row dating to last season, shot 39% (22 of 56) and was held under 69 points for the first time this season. Jeremy Sochan had nine points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.

Justin Moore had 15 points for the Wildcats.

Top-ranked Purdue lost to Rutgers on Thursday night, clearing the way for Baylor to move up to the No. 1 spot when the new Associated Press poll comes out Monday. Baylor never made it to No. 1 in a poll during the regular season last year on the way to its national title, and last was in that spot during the 2019-20 season.

Baylor, which had to overcome a 30-23 halftime deficit in the Sweet 16 matchup, took control with an 11-0 run during a five-minute scoring drought by the Wildcats late in the first half. The Bears led 25-9 before Collin Gillespie made a drought-breaking 3-pointer.

With basically every shot contested, Villanova missed nine in a row in an early scoreless span of more than 7 1/2 minutes while the Bears only scored four points of their own.

The Wildcats missed six shots over more than five minutes during another scoreless drought in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: The previous scoring low under Wright came in a 46-40 loss to UConn on Feb. 11, 2002, in Wright’s first season. … Gillespie, the team’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, scored six points. After his 3 to end a long drought with 2:48 left in the first half, he hit another 3 before the break.

Baylor: Akinjo, a senior transfer in his first season at Baylor, began his college career in the Big East at Georgetown before playing at Arizona last year. He also had five assists. … The Bears have won 33 nonconference games in a row since November 2020, by an average margin of more than 23 points.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Plays its Big East opener at Creighton on Friday night.

Baylor: After final exams this week, the Bears play at Oregon on Saturday night.