Every Big 12 coach knows Manu Lecomte is one of the premier point guards in the conference, so they focus their defense to stop him each time he touches the ball.
After averaging 18.4 points and shooting 46.2 percent from 3-point range in nonconference games, Lecomte is averaging just eight points and hitting 18.2 percent of his 3-pointers in the Bears’ opening two Big 12 losses to No. 18 Texas Tech and No. 16 TCU.
The Bears’ guards hope to take some of the pressure off Lecomte with more accurate shooting in Saturday’s matchup against Texas at 1 p.m. at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (10-4) have hit just 16.7 percent of their 3-pointers in the first two Big 12 games. While Lecomte has connected on two of 11 treys, King McClure has hit two of six, and Jake Lindsey and Nuni Omot have each missed two 3-point shots.
“They put a huge emphasis on Manu, so myself, Jake, Tyson (Jolly) and Nuni have to take some of the load off him by making shots,” McClure said. “It’s something I feel like I haven’t really done the first two (Big 12) games. I need to play a lot better to help the team and Manu out. We all know what Manu is capable of. He’s a great player.”
There were some promising signs for the Bears in Tuesday’s 81-78 overtime loss to TCU at the Ferrell Center, as center Jo Lual-Acuil came back from a foot injury to amass 28 points and 11 rebounds and forward Terry Maston collected 20 points and nine boards in his second game back after missing six games with a broken right hand.
While the Bears scored freely in the paint, they struggled from the perimeter by hitting just one of 12 3-pointers against the Horned Frogs. Guarded by 6-5 Desmond Bane, the 5-11 Lecomte made one of five treys and one of 11 shots overall. McClure, Omot and Lindsey went a combined three of 14 from the field.
Baylor coach Scott Drew and his staff will look for more ways to take the pressure of Lecomte.
“I think the biggest thing is other guys around him start to make shots and score,” Drew said. “That opens up things for Manu. And then at the same time, as we see how teams have taken him away, then there’s ways we can utilize that to get our players, if they’re going to hedge really hard, try to get in slips where we can get some easies that way.
“If they’re going to double ball-screen, try to be ready to score out of that. There’s different things that the rest of the team can take advantage of and hopefully improve their production, which at the end of the day makes them not be able to key on Manu.”
Though Baylor has 16 Big 12 games remaining, Saturday’s home game against the Longhorns (10-4, 1-1) is critical since the Bears hit the road to face West Virginia and Iowa State next week.
Baylor is off to its first 0-2 conference start since the 2014-15 season, but that team pulled things together and finished 11-7 in the Big 12 to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
“We started off 0-2, that’s not a good start,” McClure said. “We can bounce back from it but every game is important, and this game means just as much as the next one. We’re looking forward to going out there and competing for all 40 minutes.”
The Longhorns are coming off a New Year’s Day 74-70 road win over Iowa State that was keyed by a seven for 13 3-point shooting performance by forward Dylan Osetkowski and a tremendous all-around game by freshman forward Mohamed Bamba who collected 10 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Osetkowski leads the Longhorns with a 15.5 average while Bamba is averaging 11.7 points with a league-high 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots. Guard Kerwin Roach is averaging 10.8 points and guard Andrew Jones is averaging 13.5 points. However, Jones played just 11 minutes and scored eight points against Iowa State game with an undisclosed illness.
The 6-11 Bamba is projected to be one of the top picks in this year’s NBA draft if he chooses to go pro.
“When you talk about Texas, you have great athleticism, elite in transition and obviously with Bamba superior length,” Drew said. “Bamba, there’s reasons he’s projected a top three draft pick. The good thing is our guys get to go against a great shot blocker each and every day in practice in Jo (Lual-Acuil). And that makes it easier when you face someone like Mo.”
With the Bears finally getting healthy after numerous injuries, they hope they can put together a complete game.
“We have a team bond and a team chemistry, and then when people get hurt it affects that a little bit,” Omot said. “That’s something you’re not used to. Once we have our full team I’m sure we’re going to be really hard to stop.”