Baylor freshman guard Jared Butler has many miles to go before he can match the legends of his hometown of Reserve, La.
Tweety Carter and Rico Gathers left their marks at Baylor in different ways, and now Butler has his chance.
Collecting a game-high 22 points, Butler helped the Bears avoid another loss to a SWAC team as they closed out a 91-80 win over Prairie View on Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
After hitting four of 13 shots in Baylor’s first two games, Butler nailed seven of 10 against Prairie View A&M, including three of five from 3-point range. He even got some encouragement from Carter before the game.
“I hear from Tweety every day, all day,” Butler said. “He called me before the game and he said I played a good game the game before. He was like keep going J.B., you know how we rock from Louisiana. He’s a big influence, especially ever since I’ve come to Baylor. I just appreciate him a lot big time.”
With graduate transfer Makai Mason missing the first three games with an ankle injury, Butler is getting time to adjust to college basketball.
“In the first game I had a lot of jitters and was wondering what it was going to be like,” Butler said. “Once I feel comfortable and I feel the environment, I play better and I play more comfortable, and that’s what you saw tonight a little bit.”
The game will close out Baylor’s tour of the SWAC in the opening seven days of the season. The Bears (2-1) opened with a 72-69 loss to Texas Southern last Tuesday that snapped their 56-0 all-time record against the SWAC.
Baylor bounced back with an 80-53 win over Southern before holding on to its double-digit win over Prairie View A&M (1-1). After shooting 44 percent in each of the first two games, the Bears shot 60.8 percent against the Panthers.
“We scheduled teams that we thought would win their league, and the three teams we played in the SWAC we thought were the three best,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Prairie View is an outstanding team. They went to Santa Clara and won by 20 out there. It’s hard to win on the road, anywhere by 20, let alone on the west coast.”
Baylor’s attack featured balanced scoring as senior guard King McClure hit five of eight three-pointers and finished with 21 points along with a team-high eight rebounds. Guard Devonte Bandoo nailed a pair of treys and scored 16 points.
Sophomore forward Tristan Clark came up big with a superb all-around game with 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five blocks.
“When I block a shot the crowd goes wild,” Clark said. “It ignites my team. When I get going on defense and block shots, it creates easy buckets in transition.”
Everything seemed to be rolling along nicely for the Bears at halftime as they opened up a 47-36 lead behind their seven of 13 3-point shooting.
But Gary Blackston got hot for the Panthers as he buried a trey followed by a pair of short jumpers. With Taishaun Johnson driving for a basket, the Panthers completed a 9-2 run to cut Baylor’s lead to 59-57 with 9:26 remaining.
The Panthers still managed to hang close when Gerard Andrus hit a pair of shots to cut Baylor’s lead to 65-61. But the Bears answered with a 13-0 run to put the game away.
Butler nailed a pair of free throws and cut loose on a pair of drives to the basket.
“I wanted to win and I want to do whatever is best for the team,” Butler said. “If I see a lane or an opening, I let my instincts take over and I try to knock the shot down. I wasn’t trying to take over. I wasn’t trying to do it all by myself, I was just trying to win.”
McClure drained a trey from the top of the arc before getting loose for a layup. Clark then took the ball away from Blackston on a drive and hustled downcourt for a slam after taking a pass from McClure to stretch Baylor’s lead to 78-61.
“If we could bottle up the way Tristan played in that five, six-minute stretch in the second half, I told him, I would buy a ticket to watch him play as well as he played in that stretch,” Drew said.