After losing a grueling Top 25 matchup to Wichita State, Baylor was anxious to step back on the court as quickly as possible.
The No. 23 Bears showed few negative effects from Saturday’s loss as they manhandled Sam Houston State, 84-56, Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
The win over the Bearkats begins a stretch of five straight games against unranked opponents heading into the Dec. 29 Big 12 opener against Texas Tech in Lubbock. Following a 76-63 loss to No. 13 Xavier and a 69-62 loss to No. 6 Wichita State last week, the Bears hope to build some momentum in the upcoming weeks.
“In Saturday’s game, we obviously didn’t get the result we wanted,” said Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil. “It was great to come back and have a quick turnaround to get a good feeling back. Coming off two losses in a row, we knew we needed to bounce back, and I think the team did a good job playing with energy, and our defense was great tonight.”
After hitting just five of 21 3-pointers against Wichita State, the Bears nailed 10 of 26 against the Bearkats (5-4). Manu Lecomte drained four of 10 treys while Nuni Omot hit three of six and Jake Lindsey nailed two of five.
Baylor coach Scott Drew liked the way his team shared the ball as six players scored in double figures as Lual-Acuil and Omot scored 15 points apiece, Tristan Clark hit 14, Lecomte scored 12, and Lindsey and Mark Vital scored 11 apiece.
“It was great to see six guys in double figures, great to see 18 assists,” Drew said. “Obviously, human nature you have a tough loss and you play the next game and it’s not two ranked teams, not a nationally televised game with the hype. So right away the coaches are worried. But I thought the upperclassmen really did a good job making sure we came out intense, focused and set the tone early.”
The Bears (6-2) also played superb defense as they limited the Bearkats to 34.9 percent overall and five of 26 3-pointers. However, Sam Houston outrebounded the Bears, 41-37.
“Rebounding, there’s no excuse,” Drew said. “We’ve got to get better. Against Wichita State, we were good on the glass. We’ll figure out the percentages and see what they were. But definitely we’re disappointed with the rebounding.”
With forward T.J. Maston out until January with a broken right hand, the Bears lack depth inside. But redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly was cleared to play against Wichita State after dealing with a medical issue. After playing just three minutes against the Shockers, Jolly played 17 minutes against the Bearkats and finished with five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Though he missed all three shot attempts, his contributions helped the Bears.
“I didn’t think I’d play that much today,” Jolly said. “But my teammates carried me, they helped me on defense and offense. They just gave me confidence and it was easy from there. If they need to me to score one night, I’ll score. Assists, rebound, if I have to guard the best player, whatever they need me to do that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Bears grabbed a 10-2 lead to open the game as Lecomte started the scoring with a 3-pointer and Omot, Clark and Lual-Acuil scored inside. But the Bearkats answered with an 8-0 run as Chris Galbreath scored three baskets. Galbreath scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Leading 12-11, the Bears took command with a 12-0 to open up a 24-11 lead.
Omot nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner and then soared high on a Lindsey pass for an alley-oop slam. Clark rammed inside for a pair of baskets before Vital closed the run with a 3-pointer .
The Bears stayed hot from 3-point range as Omot, Lecomte and Lindsey buried 3-pointers to extend the lead to 40-17.
But in the closing seconds of the first half, Vital fouled John Dewey on a 3-point attempt and he nailed all three free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Then Omot threw a long, errant pass that sailed over everybody to give the Bearkats possession. Albert Almanza drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut Baylor’s halftime lead to 40-25.
The Bears were hot from long range to open the second half as Omot drilled another 3-pointer and Lecomte nailed a pair of treys. Vital showed his leaping ability when he took a pass from Lecomte over a Sam Houston defender for a basket to push Baylor’s lead to 56-31 with 13:36 left in the game.
In the closing minutes, Baylor running back Obim Okeke stepped in at guard for the Bears and got a steal and showed his defensive prowess.
“All I know is we asked him if he knew what defense we were in,” Drew said. “And he said yeah. And he went in and he guarded the ball, no matter where it got passed. In our defense, you don’t have to guard all five guys. We can keep you on one.”