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New No. 1 Baylor focused on finishing that way

WACO, Texas -- The nation's newest No. 1 team ended Monday the way it began the day -- on top -- even if it was in less-than-picturesque fashion.

In front of a season-high home crowd, Baylor edged Oklahoma 61-57 for its 15th consecutive win and its first 6-0 conference start in 71 years.

The Bears (16-1), who earlier Monday became the seventh team in the nation to reach No. 1 in the Associated Press poll this season, were victorious despite a meager shooting effort, hitting 34.9% of their 63 shot attempts.

Although they were pleased to see themselves atop the rankings, the Bears stressed that they're focused on the future.

"It's nice ... because it's something we can say, 'At one point, we were on the No. 1 team in the country,'" Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie said. "But I mean, outside of that, I mean, guys have bigger goals. Their focus is set elsewhere."

Said Baylor coach Scott Drew: "We want to be No. 1 at the end of the year."

Still, Drew admitted that there was some "added juice and excitement" with the poll being released on a game day.

This is only the second time in Baylor history that the Bears have been ranked No. 1. Monday was the first time they've played at the Ferrell Center with that ranking; the previous time they reached that spot -- in 2017 -- they played two road games.

The home crowd of 9,217 was boisterous and involved, particularly when the Bears needed it down the stretch.

"I know that excitement was needed and much appreciated," Drew said.

The Bears were able to lean on their league-best defense to keep the Sooners (12-6, 3-3 Big 12) at bay, leading for all but 2:57. Gillespie (12 points, 15 rebounds) led a strong effort on the glass (Baylor outrebounded Oklahoma 46-36, including 18 offensive boards), but the Sooners were able to win some key rebounds in the second half and got a boost from forward Brady Manek (21 points) to help them pull within a pair in the final minute.

Oklahoma had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds, but guard Austin Reaves missed a 3-pointer, which Baylor guard Devonte Bandoo secured for a rebound and, eventually, two game-sealing free throws.

"Well, in the Big 12, if you want to win a championship, you got to win your close games," Drew said. "And you're gonna have a lot of them, so you're not going to necessarily win them all ... so you gotta win your home ones, and we did, and that's all that matters.

"And thanks for everyone that prayed on that last shot."