PULLMAN, Wash. -- Baylor let a 12-point halftime lead get away in a loss to Washington State last season.
This time, the Bears (Unranked ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) weren't going to do that again."We worked very hard on defense from a year ago," coach Scott Drew said after the Bears' 58-52 victory Saturday night. "We are a greatly improved team."Baylor beat Washington State at its own game, slowing down the tempo and making the Cougars struggle for every basket. Washington State (6-2) shot just 37 percent, while Baylor was making just 40 percent."We are similar teams," Drew said. "Our goal is to control tempo and slow it down."LaceDarius Dunn led Baylor (7-1) with 14 points, Curtis Jerrells had 13, and Henry Dugat and Tweety Carter had 12 each.Washington State, which lost at home for the first time this season, got 14 points each from Daven Harmeling and Aron Baynes. The Cougars were hurt by making just 12 of 19 free throws, while Baylor made 21 of 25."We have to play at our best or we are going to be in trouble," Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. "Our guys are going to be disappointed when they see all the breakdowns we had."Washington State had chances with less than a minute left, but could never tie it up.Baylor, whose only loss is to Wake Forest (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP), was playing its first game since breaking into the rankings last Monday for only the sixth time in school history. The Bears came in averaging 84 points and scored a season low in this one.Baylor led by seven at the break and answered all of Washington State's efforts to close the gap early in the second half.A 3-pointer by Harmeling finally tied the score at 41 with 10:47 remaining, but Washington State managed only one field goal the next seven minutes.Meanwhile, Carter hit a 3-pointer, Jerrells made two free throws and Dugat added a basket to give Baylor a 51-45 lead.Baynes' jam and Harmeling's long 3-pointer brought Washington State to within 53-51 with 2:04 left, but Dugat hit a short jumper to push the lead back to four.Nikola Koprivica made one of two free throws to make it 55-52, and Washington State's Taylor Rochestie stole the ball on Baylor's next possession. The Cougars called time out with 39 seconds left, but missed a shot inside and were forced to foul. Baylor sealed it from the foul line.In the first half, Baylor did not get a field goal until Dunn's 3-pointer with 13:21 left, but Washington State couldn't build a lead.A pair of free throws by Koprivica lifted Washington State to an 18-17 advantage with 4:13 left in the first half, but Baylor outscored the Cougers 12-4 after that to take a 29-22 lead at halftime. It was the lowest first half scoring output for either team this season.