FORT HOOD — For most Baylor players, Wednesday was the smallest crowd and the smallest venue they had played in since high school.
But the sellout crowd at Abrams Gym felt plenty big Wednesday.
Those in attendance watched No. 16 Baylor top Hardin-Simmons 104-59 in the first regular season college basketball game to ever be played at Fort Hood.
“This is about life,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said after the game, “and it’s a lot bigger than basketball.”
Hardin-Simmons put on an impressive outside shooting display (11 3-pointers) to stay close early but had no answer for the Bears’ size, namely posts Johnathan Motley and Rico Gathers.
Motley scored a game-high 23 points while Gathers added 20 points and six rebounds, passing former Texas center Chris Mihm to move to ninth on the Big 12 career rebounding list. Senior Taurean Prince also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
But just as important to Baylor was putting on a show for the Fort Hood crowd as Gathers and his teammates looked to impress early with highlight reel slams in the pregame and also later in the actual game.
“It was an exciting feeling at the beginning knowing that we were going out here and giving our best effort for the soldiers as they do for us, for our country,” he said.
Hardin-Simmons stayed close for most of the first half with its red-hot 3-point shooting, nailing six shots from downtown, including one by Duane Hopper that pulled it within 31-28 at the 4:26 mark.
But Baylor was unstoppable inside, with all but two first-half field goals coming in the paint for the Bears, ultimately outscoring Hardin-Simmons 74-16 in the paint.
“This is the tallest person in our conference,” Cowboy head coach Craig Carse said motioning to 6-foot-8 junior Justin Jones, “so we don’t see a lot of that length around the rim.”
Gathers and Motley led the early charge, combining for 22 first-half points, including a 3-point play by Motley that pushed the Baylor lead to 38-28 at the 3:26 mark.
Baylor continued to pull away as Ishmail Wainwright spun into the paint for a short jumper in the final minute then later hit Gathers with a football inbounds pass for a two-handed slam to put Baylor up 48-32 as the buzzer sounded.
The second half began with Lester Medford hitting Prince with a behind the back pass for a layup plus the foul, and the Bears rolled from there.
Gathers passed Mihm on the Big 12 career rebounding list shortly after with a putback for a 57-39 lead.
Baylor also set a school record for most team assists in a game with 40, led by senior Medford’s career high 13 dimes.
But at the end of the day, Baylor was most happy to put on a show in an area that has been kind to its athletic program over the years.
And for one night, the Bears hoped that they were just as kind back.
“RGIII, the most famous (Baylor) football player, came from here,” Drew said. “Cory Jefferson, playing for the Phoenix Suns came from here. Royce O’Neale spent a lot of time here.
“So, (there’s) a lot of tradition, a lot of mutual respect.”