After missing the last game with a thumb injury, senior point guard Manu Lecomte showed why he’s so valuable to the Baylor basketball team.
When he’s in a groove, the Bears operate smoother and scoring comes easier for everybody.
With Lecomte scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists, the No. 21 Bears matched their season high by shooting 66.1 percent to storm to a 99-68 win over road weary Texas Southern on Thursday night at the Ferrell Center.
“It was really good to have Manu back,” said Baylor forward Nuni Omot. “He’s obviously one of our main guys and what he brings to the team is really special.”
The Bears improved to 8-2 with just two nonconference games remaining before opening Big 12 play against No. 24 Texas Tech on Dec. 29 in Lubbock. Baylor came within a point of recording consecutive 100-point games for the first time since 1989 after romping to a 105-82 win over Randall in their last game Saturday in Fort Hood.
The Tigers fell to 0-10 but they’ve played a grueling schedule all on the road, including losses to No. 12 Gonzaga and No. 13 Kansas.
Playing with a wrap around his left thumb on his non-shooting hand, Lecomte drained three of six 3-pointers and hit all five free throws. Omot also scored 22 points by hitting 10 of 12 field goals following a career-high 30-point performance against Randall.
“Nuni had great looks tonight and the team did a good job making the extra pass to him, and he did a great job knocking him down,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Nuni didn’t get a lot of experience last year and didn’t get real comfortable. The great thing is he’s on a roll and I hope it continues. I like to see him go 10 for 12.”
Jo Lual-Acuil collected 18 points and five rebounds as he played in front of his parents for the first time in his four college seasons. His Sudanese parents flew in for his Baylor graduation on Saturday, and he picked them up in the Metroplex before the game.
“I was nervous before the game because my mom had never seen me play and I wanted to make sure I had a good game,” Lual-Acuil said. “My mom got a little emotional because we hadn’t seen each other for so long.”
Trae Jefferson scored a game-high 24 points for the Tigers, but the Bears simply had too many weapons.
Shooting 64.3 percent, the Bears opened up a 43-32 halftime lead. Lecomte drained a pair of treys and scored 11 points while Lual-Acuil came up big inside with 10 points.
Despite Baylor’s offensive production, Texas Southern stuck close throughout much of the first half behind the point guard play of Jefferson and the inside presence of 7-2 center Trayvon Reed.
The Bears opened up an early 11-6 lead as Omot scored the first two baskets before Lecomte stole the ball and scored and then buried a 3-pointer.
But with Reed slicing inside for a slam, the Tigers cut Baylor’s lead to 16-15 with 11:47 left in the first half. Lual-Acuil scored three straight baskets in the paint, but Donte Clark drained a 3-pointer to cut Baylor’s lead to 22-20.
The Bears finally began to get some breathing room with an 8-0 run sparked by Lecomte’s four-point play when he nailed a 3-pointer and hit a free throw. With Tristan Clark’s tip-in, the Bears stretched the lead to 32-22.
After the Tigers cut Baylor’s lead to 38-32 with Jefferson’s 3-pointer and his drive to the basket, the Bears closed out the half strong with King McClure’s 3-pointer and Lecomte’s fadeaway jumper with two seconds remaining to push the lead to 43-32.
The Bears stayed hot to open the second half. After the Tigers cut the lead to 45-37, the Bears went on a 17-0 run to push their lead to 62-37.
McClure and Lecomte drained 3-pointers before Omot drove inside twice for baskets and drilled a 3-pointer. Lual-Acuil’s basket in the paint finished off the run.
The Bears continued to stretch their lead throughout the second half as Jake Lindsey drilled a 3-pointer to make it 88-56.