Considering senior center Jo Lual-Acuil’s monster performances in the last two games, Baylor should attempt to convince his parents to stay in the United States a little longer.
They flew in from Sudan to attend Lual-Acuil’s Saturday graduation, and watched him play for the first time in his college career in the last two games. Their towering son did not let them down.
Lual-Acuil set career highs with 31 points and 20 rebounds as the No. 21 Bears scored their most points in the Scott Drew era in a 118-86 blowout of Savannah State on Sunday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.
The 7-0 Lual-Acuil’s big game followed an 18-point, five-rebound performance in Thursday’s 99-68 win over Texas Southern. His parents along with an aunt and his niece are scheduled to leave before Baylor’s next game against Southern on Wednesday night.
“It was great having a career high in points and rebounds in front of my family after not seeing them for a long time,” Lual-Acuil said. “It pretty much just caps off the week. I couldn’t have written it any better.”
Lual-Acuil hit 10 of 15 field goals and 11 of 16 free throws while also collecting three blocked shots as the Bears improved to 9-2.
“It’s great to see Jo to be able to relax and get 31 and 20 in front of his family,” Drew said. “I know he was excited about that, and the guys did a great job getting him the ball.”
The Bears scored their most points ever in a game at the Ferrell Center, and came within four of matching Texas Tech’s 122 points at the Ferrell Center in 1995.
Point guard Manu Lecomte set a career high by hitting seven of 13 3-pointers and scored a season-high 25 points along with seven assists. Recovering from a sprained left thumb, Lecomte looked polished as he distributed the ball to all the right spots as the Bears finished with 32 assists while committing 18 turnovers.
“I think we did a great job as a team of finding each other,” Lecomte said. “We did a great job feeding Jo inside. Obviously, they couldn’t stop him. It was a really fun game. Like Coach (Drew) said, we had a lot of assists as a team, so that’s always a positive.”
Savannah State (3-10) has the worst defense in the nation as it has allowed an average of 98.2 points per game. But the Tigers have also shot the most 3-pointers in the country with an average of 40.4 per game.
The Tigers drained 20 of 51 3-pointers against the Bears, including six of 12 by both Austin Dasent and Dexter McClanahan. But the Bears took advantage of their huge size advantage in the paint.
“Coming into this game, the first thing is we wanted to guard the 3-point line,” Drew said. “Obviously, we didn’t do as good a job as we would have liked. They hit 20 3s. When you shoot 51, you’re going to make some of them.”
Hitting four 3-pointers, the Tigers hung with the Bears in the early minutes. With Zach Sellers’ trey, Savannah State cut Baylor’s lead to 16-12.
But with a 21-0 run, the Bears extended their lead to 37-12 and were never threatened the rest of the first half.
Nuni Omot started the streak by scoring seven straight points, including 3-pointers from the left and right corners. Omot finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and has scored 70 points in the last three games.
Mark Vital blocked Alante Fenner’s drive to the basket and Jake Lindsey got loose for a layup on the other end to push Baylor’s lead to 25-12.
The Bears were just getting started as King McClure drained a pair of 3-pointers and Vital converted a three-point play when he drove to the basket, drew a foul and hit the free throw. McClure finished with 19 points while Vital set career highs with 12 points and nine rebounds while dishing out six assists.
Baylor closed the run with baskets in the paint by Lecomte, McClure and Tristan Clark midway through the first half.
Though the Tigers finally pulled out of their scoring slump by nailing six 3-pointers in the remaining minutes of the half, they couldn’t stop the Bears. Baylor kept moving the ball as Lual-Acuil dominated inside and Lecomte buried a pair of 3-pointers to stretch the halftime lead to 61-37.
The Bears went cold to open the second half as they hit two of their first seven shots, and the Tigers took advantage of it. They kept slicing into Baylor’s lead as McClanahan drained a pair of 3-pointers on a 9-0 run to make it 76-63.
After the Tigers cut the lead to 80-70, the Bears went on an 11-0 run by pounding the ball inside. Lual-Acuil pushed into the paint three times for baskets and Lindsey drove for a layup before McClure hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 91-70 with 7:59 remaining.
“They play super fast,” Lecomte said. “So we got caught up a little bit. And they pressed, they sped us up a little bit. We had to take care of the ball a little bit more. In the first half, we had 11 turnovers. But I thought we did a better job of making the right plays in the second half.”
Drew didn’t play redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly, but he said he’ll likely play against Southern.