Ever-improving Taurean Prince helps No. 25 Baylor beat No. 16 Vandy

Taurean Prince has turned into Baylor’s best all-around player. (USATSI)

Want a team that took arguably the biggest boost in college hoops this weekend? How about Baylor?

The Bears (6-1) came back to knock off 16th-ranked Vanderbilt (6-2) on Sunday night, winning 69-67 on their home floor to earn, by far, their best win of the season. Scott Drew, coach of the Bears, will probably love most of the film session tomorrow because so many of his players showed up in so many ways.

Senior big man Rico Gathers tallied his fourth double-double in his last five games, going for 10 points and 13 rebounds. Lester Medford, who’s coming along nicely now at point guard, had 15 points, five assists and just one turnover. Ish Wainwright was the right guy in the right spot about a half-dozen times.

But it was Taurean Prince who did the most damage. And doing it in this kind of game will really help Prince’s draft stock. He’s already considered a fringe first-rounder by some, but in light of his career-high 30 points on Sunday night, the secret could be out on the senior tweener. He has become Baylor’s best option overall, and in having a dogmatic presence like him to pair with Gathers, the Bears will be a factor in the Big 12.

Prince, who eclipsed his previous career high of 25, also had five boards and three steals. He hit Vandy with nearly the full arsenal in his game. Inside and out, high energy, second-chance opportunities. Prince took no plays off against the Commodores, who actually went on a 17-0 run in the second half, helping erase the eight-point lead Baylor built earlier.

“Normally you can panic, take bad shots and stop guarding,” Drew said on TV afterward. “What we did was take better shots and kept guarding.”

This was a sneaky-good game coming in. Vandy was ranked No. 12 in KenPom’s rankings entering the night; Baylor was 13th. And check this stat, courtesy of the ESPNU broadcast: Baylor has now gone 52 straight games without allowing a team to score more than 75 points, the longest streak in the nation.

Vandy had a nice night from another pro prospect, Wade Baldwin (19 points, four board, four dimes) but he fouled out when he hit on Medford’s on a made 3-point attempt with 42 seconds to go. That put Baylor up for good. Both teams should be in the rankings for most of the season.

Prior to Sunday night, we weren’t sure what Baylor could be, but in a tight game and with a big deficit, Drew coached his team to one of the more convincing comebacks in his tenure in recent years.

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