With Jo Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston scoring at will in the paint, Baylor found the inside power it had been seeking in the Big 12 home opener Tuesday night against TCU.
But the Bears only found frustration from the perimeter as the TCU guards smothered Manu Lecomte and King McClure.
Holding Lecomte and McClure to a combined 1 for 17 from the field, the No. 16 Horned Frogs slipped away with an 81-78 overtime win over the Bears before 5,776 fans at the Ferrell Center.
In a conference as deep and loaded as the Big 12, the last thing Baylor wanted was to plunge into a hole in the first week of the race. But that’s exactly what the Bears (10-4) have done as they dropped to 0-2 in conference for the first time since the 2014-15 season following losses to Texas Tech and TCU.
“I think normally you want to be at a point going into conference where you know yourself and know exactly what you’re doing,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “Unfortunately with our situation we haven’t had that chance. So I think we’ll continue to adjust, continue to grow. It’s just hard to get wins unless you’re really on your A game. We’re getting closer but we’ve still got a lot of games left to play.”
The Horned Frogs (13-1, 1-1) won their first game against the Bears since 2002. Baylor had won all 11 Big 12 games against TCU beginning in 2013.
After missing Friday’s 77-53 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock with a sprained left foot, Lual-Acuil delivered a monster game against the Horned Frogs as he amassed 28 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 42 minutes.
Senior forward Terry Maston produced a superb game off the bench as he finished with 20 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. Maston is playing with a plate in his right (shooting) hand after breaking it against Xavier on Nov. 28, forcing him to miss six games.
Maston hit 10 of 15 shots against the Horned Frogs after going 0 for 4 against Texas Tech in his return to action.
“First game I was a little shaky,” Maston said. “I kind of wanted to be hesitant of it and guard it, but thanks to Coach Drew just talking me up, I know I’m not going to hurt it anymore and it’s stronger now than it was before. I ended up having a good game, but I just want to come back next game and play even better.”
But the Bears couldn’t overcome the poor shooting of Lecomte, who went one for 11, and McClure, who went 0 for 6. Defended by 6-5 TCU guard Desmond Bane, Lecomte hit just one of 5 3-pointers and dished out four assists while committing three turnovers.
“Credit their defense for making it tough, but I know when they gave us the inside, Jo and T.J. (Maston) did a really good job of being efficient down there,” Drew said. “With shooting, sometimes you’re going to make them, sometimes you’re not. The big thing is you’ve got to get stops and you’ve got to get rebounds and can’t turn the ball over.”
Despite their perimeter issues, the Bears fought back from a 12-point deficit early in the second half to send the game into overtime when Jake Lindsey scored on a drive to the basket with 16 seconds remaining for a 64-64 tie. Bane missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for TCU.
In overtime, Baylor took a 74-72 edge when Lual-Acuil hit a pair of free throws with 1:52 remaining. But TCU’s Vlad Brodziansky, who scored 18 points, nailed a 3-pointer at the top of the arc with 1:28 remaining to give the Horned Frogs a 75-74 lead.
After Maston missed a jumper, Kouat Noi scored inside to give TCU a 77-74 edge with 47 seconds remaining. Maston answered with a putback but Jaylen Fisher hit a pair of free throws to push TCU’s lead to 79-76 with 23.7 seconds remaining.
After Lecomte missed on a drive to the basket, senior Kenrich Williams hit a long inbounds pass to Noi for a layup to seal the win with 13 seconds remaining.
For Williams, a former University High School star, the win was sweet since it was his first in his last game at the Ferrell Center.
“I can’t even explain the feeling,” said Williams, who collected 12 points and seven rebounds. “I’m just thanking the guys in the locker room. I hadn’t beat Baylor. Every time I came back home the previous three years we had been beat by like 20. For us to get this win and for them to play like they did, I really do appreciate them and what they did for me.”