That freewheeling Baylor basketball team that scored points so easily in the season opener was nowhere to be found for the first 20 minutes Monday night.
With Texas A&M-Corpus Christi playing a deliberate offense, the Bears’ fast break slowed to a crawl.
The No. 25 Bears finally found an offensive groove in the second half and pulled away for a 70-46 win at the Ferrell Center, but they don’t want to make a habit of slow starts.
With a hot second half, the Bears shot 47.2 percent against the Islanders. But the Bears weren’t nearly as productive as they were in Friday’s opener when they shot a school record 66.1 percent in a 107-66 blowout of Central Arkansas.
“So that’s a tale of two games,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “First game you can’t miss, second game you can’t score. But the big thing it’s a credit to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, they had a great game plan, shorten the game and make you play defense. In the second half, we did a better job being consistent and getting some transition buckets, which really helped.”
After scoring 22 points in the opener, Manu Lecomte produced another big game with 23 points as he hit three of seven 3-pointers and all 10 free throws.
Terry Maston came off the bench to notch his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Nuni Omot also scored 12 points and brought down the house with a thunderous slam dunk in the final minutes.
After shooting 41.7 percent in the first half, the Bears were much more effective in the second half by shooting 51.7 percent. Baylor only committed eight turnovers and the defense was superb throughout the game as the Islanders shot 36.2 percent.
“You come off a game where everything is so easy and you’re making shots, and now you’re missing shots and playing a lot more defense,” Drew said. “So you don’t get the ball as much, it just starts to build and you get frustrated. Each game is going to be different. That’s why you play a nonconference schedule, so you can get used to things that are different.”
The Bears found little offensive rhythm in the first half against the Islanders and needed a 9-2 run in the final minutes to go into halftime with a 28-22 lead.
“I thought we played well, but we just didn’t make shots in the first half,” Lecomte said. “I think we still played real good defense and we made good plays. But there was an energy level on both ends of the floor in the second half. Energy was the main thing.”
After the Islanders (1-1) closed the lead to 30-28, the Bears went on a 10-0 run to take command of the game.
Lecomte ignited the run by nailing a 3-pointer before Maston rebounded and scored. After Jo Lual-Acuil blocked Sean Rhea’s shot, Lecomte drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws.
Omot completed the run by nailing a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Bears a 40-28 lead with 14:27 left in the game.
The Islanders’ Joseph Kilgore responded with a 3-pointer, but Jake Lindsey spotted Omot running downcourt on a fast break for a layup.
Kilgore briefly halted Baylor’s momentum with a basket, but the Bears reeled off nine straight points to expand their lead to 51-33.
Once again, Lecomte was the catalyst as he drove for a pair of baskets. King McClure also drove for a basket and Lindsey buried a 3-pointer.
Mark Vital showed his strength by bulling inside for a basket, drawing a foul and hitting the free throw. A pair of Lecomte free throws pushed Baylor’s lead to 56-35 with seven minutes remaining.
The final minutes turned into a dunkfest as Omot sailed high and threw down a slam over Elijah Schmidt with 2:15 remaining. Omot also drew a foul and hit the free throw to push Baylor’s lead to 66-42.
“He just kept going up and up and up,” Maston said. “He had one a little similar (in practice) but nothing like that.”