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Baylor men's basketball climbs to No. 1 after 9-0 start, remains focused on serving others

For the third season in a row, the Baylor Bears sit atop the world of men’s college basketball as the No. 1 team in the AP poll. They returned to the top spot on Monday, following a dominant 57-36 win over No. 6 Villanova on Sunday afternoon.

The Bears entered the game ranked second in the country and knowing a victory would almost surely propel them to the top with then-No. 1 Purdue losing Thursday.

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It is the second time in three years Baylor has been ranked No. 1 during the regular season. Last season’s No. 1 ranking did not come until after winning the first national championship in program history.

Sunday’s victory against the Wildcats came in large part to a historically great defensive performance. Baylor held Villanova to just 12 made field goals on 54 attempts, resulting in the fewest points scored and worst field goal percentage of Villanova coach Jay Wright’s era.

“Coming in, I think Villanova was the fourth-best offense in the country and we were the sixth-best offense in the country,” head coach Scott Drew said after the game. “So, the defenses were really good against top offenses. I think both of us missed shots we normally make, but I think that was attributed to none of the shots were easy early on. What happened was, when you got an open one, you didn’t have a rhythm.”

Transfer guard James Akinjo led the way for the Bears offensively with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Four other players contributed at least seven points.

Legendary ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale made the trip to Waco to call a Baylor home game for the first time in his storied 42-year career as a color commentator. The Bears presented Vitale with a No. 42 jersey before the game and put together a video honoring the work he has done in the fight against cancer. Vitale is heavily involved with the V Foundation for Cancer Research and was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.

The video ended with Drew giving his best “Dickie V” impression and thanking Vitale for the impact he’s made:

Drew has also made an impact on the game. He inherited a program in turmoil when he arrived in Waco in 2003, but has since turned the Bears into a national power through a culture of J.O.Y. — Jesus, Others, Yourself.

“We all know if you’re right off the court, you usually have a much better chance to be right on the court,” Drew said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last month. “And with us, it’s a privilege and a blessing not only to pour into guys character-wise, academically and athletically, but the most important thing is winning the game of life and that’s the spiritual component.”

Being at the largest Baptist university in the country has allowed Drew to make faith a key component of his program while making sure he continues to grow spiritually as well. At the heart of his coaching philosophy is the importance of serving others and sharing the love of Christ with as many people as possible.

“Jesus came to serve and not be served,” Drew said on the podcast, “so servant leadership is something that we all believe in 100 percent. … God’s given us a great platform and we want to share that with as many people as possible.”

The 9-0 Bears’ first game as the new No. 1 will also be their first true road game of the season. They travel to face Oregon at 10 p.m. ET Saturday.

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