Playing at Fort Hood for the third straight year, the Baylor men’s basketball players always look forward to the short trip to thank the soldiers for everything they’ve done.
The No. 23 Bears will face Randall University at 6 p.m. at Abrams Gym, but the game is really more about giving back to the military.
“I think it’s a pretty cool trip just to see all the troops and to see what they do for us and to play in front of them and just to honor them and what they do for our country,” said Baylor junior guard King McClure. “It means a lot. So I always like going down to Fort Hood.”
The Bears (6-2) dominated their first two trips to Fort Hood with a 104-59 blowout of Hardin-Simmons in 2015 and an 82-57 win over Jackson State last season.
Randall (4-8) competes in the National Christian College Athletic Association, and is the only non-NCAA team on Baylor’s schedule. The only time the Bears previously faced the Moore, Okla.-based school was in 2004 when it was named Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College. The Bears romped to a 91-52 win in coach Scott Drew’s second season.
Heading into their final four pre-conference games, the Bears will continue to develop their chemistry and fine tune their player rotation as they prepare for the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech on Dec. 29 in Lubbock.
“I think our communication has to be better,” said Baylor guard Jake Lindsey. “I think we got lazy at the end of the last game, we got a little complacent. We don’t want to just win the game because we might be better than that team, we want to win because we play well.”
The Bears rolled to an 84-56 win over Sam Houston State on Monday at the Ferrell Center as six players scored in double figures. With senior forward Terry Maston out until January with a broken right hand, the Bears have had to adjust their player rotation and are still trying to work out the kinks.
“Our offense is still not flowing like we need it to flow,” Lindsey said. “And some of that is guys are in brand new roles that they haven’t really been maybe preparing to play for a few months. But hopefully with more reps, guys can not only grow their own games, but gain confidence. And then when T.J. (Maston) comes back, we’ll have eight, nine confident contributors ready to go.”
After being cleared from a medical issue, redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly has played the last two games. Following a three-minute stint in last Saturday’s 69-62 loss to No. 6 Wichita State, Jolly played 17 minutes against Sam Houston State and finished with five rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, but didn’t score on three shot attempts.
The addition of Jolly gives the Bears another perimeter player, but his numbers showed he can contribute in several different areas.
“Tyson plays with such energy and passion, and similar to Mark (Vital) they give you a boost of energy when they get in the game,” Drew said. “Tyson is just so excited to play right now, it carries over and inspires everybody else too. The first game was so hard and almost unfair putting him in. He was much better getting to his assignments (against Sam Houston State) and knowing what he was doing out there and having a second wind.”
Though the Bears played tremendous defense by holding Sam Houston to 34.9 percent overall shooting and 19.2 percent from 3-point range, they were outrebounded by a 41-37 margin.
Center Jo Lual-Acuil grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and freshman forward Tristan Clark pulled down eight, but the Bears will need better rebounding numbers from players across the board in Big 12 play.
Drew applauded his team’s effort but would like to record more rebounds.
“It actually probably wasn’t as indicative as the numbers,” Drew said. “We didn’t miss as many assignments and we did have effort, but again you’ve got to keep getting better. That’s an area where we’ve tried to improve and carve out a little more space, so if you do get a bad bounce you’re still in position to get a rebound.”
While the Bears pride themselves on playing unselfish basketball, Drew wants his players to make sure they don’t pass up open shots.
“Each and every year your role changes,” Drew said. “Some years you have so many scoring options that it’s not so important that you take those shots. For instance Jake (Lindsey) facilitated a lot, and he’s a great facilitator. But we need him knocking down those shots when it comes from inside-out.”
Abrams Gym holds just 2,400 people, so the atmosphere will feel more like a high school gym than a college basketball arena.
“It’s different, it’s almost like being back in high school,” Lindsey said. “Your sight lines are a little closer. You’ve got to kind of adjust to the size of the gym.”