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Daily Bears Report 11/19 - Updated

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Seniors Day

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s Events

Baylor Athletics Video Update (Friday Afternoon) with John Morris, The Voice of the Bears

Volleyball

  • Baylor volleyball (20-9, 8-5) makes its final road trip of the 2016 regular season, facing the Oklahoma Sooners (14-13, 5-9) today at 4 p.m. in McCasland Field House in Norman. From Baylor Bears dot com.

Baylor will try for the season sweep over the Sooners, a first for BU since 2001.

The Bears will also look to claim victory in Norman for the first time since 2011.

With a 16-game conference schedule, BU could pick up its ninth Big 12 win of the season, locking in a winning record in conference play for the first time since going 11-9 in 2009, and for just the third time in the program’s history.

The Bears and Sooners met in Waco on Oct. 22 earlier this season, with Baylor taking a 3-1 win.

OU carries the advantage in the all-time series, leading 16-39 overall and 4-22 in Norman entering the weekend’s contest.

For this and all other Baylor road matches, fans can tune into the live internet radio broadcast on BaylorBears.com/allaccess.

Cross Country

  • It may not have quite the same ring as the battle cry from General Sam Houston’s army: “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” But if “Remember Wisconsin!” seems to motivate the Baylor women’s cross country team, who can argue? WacoTrib’s Brice Cherrry has this story at BearsExtra.

Overall, it’s been a dynamic season for the Baylor team — minus one rough performance at the Big 12 Championships. But the Bears are trying to ignore that slip-up in favor of remembering how they performed at meets like Notre Dame and Wisconsin. They finished fifth in both of those meets, amid a field of a bevy of the top teams in the country.

So, heading into Saturday’s NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., Baylor wants to replicate the kind of effort they showed in Madison and South Bend.

“I think even if we just ran as well as we did at Wisconsin, we’d be setting ourselves up to be in contention for a top-10, top-15 placing,” Baylor sophomore transfer Lindsey Bradley said. “But the thing is, I think we’re capable of even more than what we showed at Wisconsin, which is super-exciting.”

  • After finishing second at the regional meet, the Baylor women's cross country team will be one of 31 squads running at the NCAA Cross Country Championship Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. From Baylor Bears dot com.

"If we run to our potential like we did earlier this year, I think top 10 is definitely doable," head coach Todd Harbour said. "I think this team is better than the team that finished 19th up there two years ago. My expectation is for us to go run well and run like we did at regionals and I think we will like the result."

The women's 6,000-meter race will be the first event of the day at 10 a.m. CT at the LaVern Gibson Course.

The Baylor women jumped from No. 25 to No. 23 in the USTFCCCA coaches poll, after the second-place regional finish. However, the Lady Bears had risen to the season-high point of No. 12 after a fifth-place finish at the Wisconsin Invitational.

Baylor's squad now features four All-Region performers in seniors Maggie Montoya and Peyton Thomas, sophomore Lindsey Bradley and freshman Anna West. Freshman Gabby Satterleewas BU's fifth runner at the regional meet. Senior Madie Zimmerman finished sixth, while freshman Hana Marsheck was seventh for the Lady Bears last week in Fayetteville, Ark. Freshman Kathryn Foreman is expected to be back for the national race after sitting out the regional race with an injury.

Montoya has finished no lower than 11th overall in any of her six races this year. She was second in the regional meet and sixth at the Big 12 Championship. Bradley has been a scoring runner in all four of her races this fall, including fifth and third-place finishes at the Big 12 and regional meets, respectively. Satterlee and West have been in BU's top-five in every race they have run this season, while Thomas did not finish the conference race, but rebounded to be 13th at the regional meet.

"We can't let the moment get too big," Harbour added. "We are going to go up there and have fun. Maggie is really, really hungry after last year, so she has big goals. We have a few of our girls that want to be All-American really bad and that's a good thing. They just need to run their race and get out. We have prepared for the NCAA meet all year, so I am confident that we will get off the line and run our race."

The Lady Bears ran on the LaVern Gibson course two years ago, placing 19th as a team at the NCAA Championships. Three members of this year's squad competed in that race, including Montoya (44th, 20:49.6), Thomas (193rd, 21:53.2) and Zimmerman (240th, 22:45.4).

Montoya also has had experience at the national meet individually, going in 2015. She finished 86th in a time of 20:45.9.

Overall on Saturday, BU will be making its 16th NCAA team appearance and the ninth in 16 years under Harbour. The Lady Bears' highest ever finish was eighth in 1998, while under Harbour the Bears highest finish is 15th in 2005.

The national field is made up of 18 squads that automatically qualified for the event by placing first or second at one of nine regionals around the country. Thirteen other teams earned at-large berths, while 38 individuals also garnered a spot by being a top runner not on an advancing team.

Each of the 31 teams will be running their top seven runners, but as in other races this fall, only the top five times from those seven runners will count towards the team score.

A live web stream of the meet will be provided by FloTrack, who is offering a free seven-day trial subscription to watch the event. Meanwhile, live results of the race will be available via NCAA.com.

Complete results and a recap of the meet will be available on BaylorBears.com following the event.

Tailgate Concert Series and Seniors Day

  • Today’s tailgate concert series features the alternative rock band Sister Hazel. The concert will take place following the "Bear Walk," which happens two and half hours prior to kickoff. The stage for this performance will be right outside Gate D of McLane Stadium on the grassy area next to the south plaza. The concert will last for approximately one hour to leave fans ample time prior to kickoff to enter the stadium. Admission to the concert series is completely free and does not require a game ticket.
Sister Hazel, “Something to Believe In”

Most importantly, Saturday's game is for these seniors. Ryan Reid. Kyle Fuller. Orion Stewart. Shock Linwood. Aiavion Edwards. Lynx Hawthorne. Patrick Levels. And all of the other guys who have poured out their blood, sweat and tears for this program over the last four or five years. They came to Waco with a vision of helping put Baylor football on the map. They've been through massive ups and downs, both on and off the field. They have two Big 12 championships and 38 wins under their belts. They've been the faces of a team that has been beaten down time and time again by those outside the program over the last 15 months.

And a special note here for Seth Russell. I don't think I'm going to say anything profound that hasn't already been said. But this guy was dealt about as cruel a hand as any college football player that I can ever recall. Seth waited three years to get his opportunity, backing up Bryce Petty as the program reached heights that had never been seen before. Seth finally gets his opportunity last season and absolutely excelled until the neck injury he suffered against Iowa State. He worked all the way back from what could have been a debilitating injury to reclaim his starting job for this 2016 team, only to see his season end in an instant yet again. He's been a consummate leader for this squad when leadership was most desperately needed. He doesn't get to play on senior day, but we do get one last chance to show him and the rest of the 2016 seniors just how much we appreciate their efforts and contributions.

So if you're going to be at McLane Stadium on Saturday, please make a note to be in your seats early. These seniors deserve our love as does every guy who has suited up for Baylor this season. I hope to see you all tomorrow. Sic 'Em Bears.

Basketball

In 2013, a small Atlantic Sun Conference team captured the nation's attention with a pair of huge upsets in becoming the first 15 seed to reach the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. An overnight sensation, Florida Gulf Coast became known as Dunk City.

The Baylor men (3-0) must be familiar with that moniker, because they began Friday night's game with a clear-cut plan to not let anyoje close to the paint. And for the first few minutes of their 81-72 win over the Dunk City Eagles, it worked.

Florida Gulf Coast initially attempted to shoot around Baylor's zone defense, hitting 3-of-9 inside the arc and just 2-for-6 outside of it. The biggest problem, literally, was the Bears' 7-foot enforcer, junior center Jo Lual-Acuil, who has posted 16 blocks through the first three games.

"We feel good when they go inside right now," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "As long as Jo's there, I think on some of our ball-screen defense we didn't get to where we needed to early enough. But, coming into this game, we know how tough of a game this was going to be for us, especially early in the season."

Not to be bullied, the Eagles (1-2) rallied behind guard Christian Terrell's perfect 6-for-6 early shooting that knotted the game at 24-24 at the 6:35 mark.

"We were just in a zone, and they got hot, especially (Terrell) with three (3-pointers) in a row. It happens. We knew he could get hot," Baylor junior point guard Manu Lecomte said. "They win 25 games every year to go to the tournament. They shot the ball very well today. But, we came back well."

Kick-starting a 12-0 run, Lual-Acuil pinned FGC guard Brandon Goodwin's layup, which went the other way for an and-one layup and free throw by Johnathan Motley. Al Freeman chipped in seven points, along with a dunk by Lual-Acuil, to give the Bears a 36-24 lead.

The game turned into a free-throw shooting contest over the last few minutes of the first half, with the Bears taking a 42-32 lead into the locker room.

FGC came out firing at the start of the second half, going on a 9-4 run in the opening two minutes. The Eagles' Zach Johnson, scoreless in the first half, drained a 3-pointer that pulled his team within two points of the Bears, 50-48.

"That's twice in a row that we've come out with 10-point leads and them evaporate," Drew said. "Defensively, we thought we were sluggish coming out against Oregon in the zone. So, we just said, let's come out in man and get them going. I think they made their first seven shots, so that didn't work, either."

Another trey by Johnson gave the Eagles the lead for a brief moment. But, a slick move by junior forward Terry Maston turned into a three-point play and quick knotted the game again at 58-58.

Florida Gulf Coast refused to go away, knocking down 10-of-19 from outside the arc and keeping it close until the last minute and a half.

"We expected a dogfight, for sure," junior guard Al Freeman said. "They've played a lot of high-major games. Playing against high-level teams isn't anything new for them. They went to the (NCAA) tournament last year. They have experienced guys, and they weren't going to come in here and back down or fold when adversity hit them. They weren't going to go anywhere."

After exchanging blow-for-blow, the Bears finally regained the lead for good at 68-67 and went on a late 13-5 run to put the game away, most of it coming from the free-throw line. Baylor was a sizzling 87 percent from the line, hitting 27-of-31, and beat a third straight team that's projected to make the NCAA Tournament field.

"I think this was really good for our team, because we needed a close game before we go to Atlantis," Drew said of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament that begins Wednesday in the Bahamas. "Not that I wanted to have one, but you're going to have a lot of close games. And you want to have some earlier in the season to get used to things, because I expect in Atlantis we'll have a lot of close games."

Friday's game was a designated mainland game for Battle 4 Atlantis, with the actual bracketed tournament beginning Wednesday when the Bears face VCU (3-0) at 1:30 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

But in Friday night’s game against Baylor, the Eagles were burying 3-pointers from all over the court as they nailed 10 of 19.

The Bears survived Florida Gulf Coast’s long-range shooting barrage to pull off an 81-72 win, but they had to sweat it out until the final minutes at the Ferrell Center.

Football

Baylor will honor 13 seniors prior to the game, who are playing in their final home game. In the past 3+ years, the group has compiled a 38-10 record, two Big 12 Championships and four bowl berths. Baylor has lost 3 games in a row for the first time since losing 4 consecutively in 2012. True freshman QB Zach Smith (272 yds & 2 TDs) will make his 1st start for the injured Seth Russell. It is the 2nd straight season BU has had a true freshman getting his first start against K-State. In 2015, Jarrett Stidham threw for 419 yards and 3 TDs in helping the Bears win 31-24 in Manhattan.

Baylor is 14-3 in the $266 million McLane Stadium, with an average scoring margin of +23.1 points. Baylor is averaging 48.1 ppg and 587 ypg in 2+ years at the riverfront stadium. Baylor has the nation’s 3rd-best home record since 2011 at 33-4, which is also best in the Big 12. BU has won 32 of its last 38 games played in Texas and is 43-9 in the state over the last 5+ seasons.

It would be logical to assume Baylor, which has always used a strong running game to set up its big-play passing game, will rely even more on its rushing attack to take the pressure off Smith, who replaces the injured Seth Russell.

The Wildcats (5-4, 3-3 Big 12), though, are expecting business as usual from the Bears (6-3, 3-3) in the 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday at McLane Stadium.

“I think they’re going to play their game,” said K-State linebacker Elijah Lee. “They did the same thing last year and plugged in a freshman (quarterback) and they did what they usually do. That’s what we have to focus on and go back to the film from last year and try to correct those mistakes and just go off what they’ve done this year.”

Last season with Russell out with a neck injury, Jarrett Stidham made his first start as a true freshman and passed for 419 yards and three touchdowns in Baylor’s 31-24 win at K-State.

“We didn’t do very good against the one last year,” Wildcats coach Bill Snyder said. “We have our work cut out for us.

Zach Smith, a true freshman quarterback, will make his first start for Baylor against Kansas State. “I like his poise in the situation he was thrust into this past week,” Snyder said of Smith. “He was as collected as anybody you could imagine.”

Coach Search Speculation

  • As Baylor’s season has progressed, it’s become increasingly clear that interim head coach Jim Grobe is unlikely to be retained by the school as they search for a long term replacement for dismissed coach Art Briles. From NBC Sports.

While the Bears still have three games and a bowl left to play, speculation is already starting to turn to what candidates the program will look at for their vacancy. According to a report from 247Sports and another one from CBS Sports, Baylor’s short list includes Houston’s Tom Herman, SMU’s Chad Morris and even ex-LSU coach Les Miles.

The inclusion of Herman makes plenty of sense considering he is the hottest name on the coaching carousel for just about every opening and is fresh off an upset win over No. 5 Louisville on Thursday night. Adding to the intrigue, Baylor’s new athletic director Mack Rhoades was actually the one who hired Herman from Ohio State to be the Cougars’ head coach.

Still, it seems like a bit of a long shot for Baylor to hire Herman given the still-unfolding sexual assault scandal that has rocked the school and the fact that his name has frequently been linked to bigger openings like LSU and other jobs such as Oregon and Texas. That’s why it’s no surprise to see Morris, who has done a great job turning around SMU and is superbly familiar with the state, and Miles on the list.

No matter where Baylor turns however, they figure to have one of the more interesting coaching searches in all of college football over the coming weeks and months.

Sic ‘em Bears!