When Baylor coach Scott Drew said this team would be a work in progress, he meant every word.
But the last thing he wanted to see was the Bears to lose their season opener to Texas Southern after building a 17-point second-half lead.
With Jaylyn Patterson scoring the final eight points and hitting 23 for the night, the Tigers overcame the Bears, 72-69, on Tuesday at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears were 56-0 all-time against SWAC teams, but the Tigers ended that streak and also snapped a streak of 45 home wins for Baylor against unranked nonconference teams.
“I feel like at times we struggled with immaturity, but credit to Texas Southern for playing hard and they kind of seemed to want the game more than us in a sense,” said Baylor senior guard King McClure. “They hit big shots. They’re a good team and in the (NCAA) tournament every year.”
The Bears will get two more cracks against SWAC teams in the upcoming week with Saturday’s date against Southern and Monday’s date against Prairie View A&M.
“It’s not the start we wanted for the season,” said Drew. “Foul trouble really hurt us. Texas Southern made the big plays down the stretch and we played with first-game jitters.”
McClure, Tristan Clark and Mark Vital are the only returning players from last year’s Baylor squad that made the second round of the NIT after the previous four teams reached the NCAA tournament.
McClure led the Bears with 23 points and five assists, while Clark scored 11 and Vital hit for 10.
But the Bears couldn’t overcome Patterson’s late scoring as he hit five of 11 3-pointers. Patterson led a balanced attack as 7-foot-2 Trayvon Reed scored 15, Devocio Butler hit 13 and Jeremy Combs 10.
The Bears opened up a 55-38 lead early in the second half, but the Tigers kept chipping away.
Patterson tied the game at 67-67 with his 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining. McClure answered with a drive for a basket, but Patterson buried another 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 70-69 edge with 24 seconds to play.
“Patterson is a fifth-year guy from LSU (transfer) and he was the one guy we couldn’t afford to lose,” Drew said.
Vital drew a foul with 5.2 seconds remaining, but the Bears were called for a lane violation before he shot the free throw. Patterson hit a pair of free throws to give the Tigers a 72-69 lead with 4.4 seconds remaining before King missed a last-second 3-point attempt for the Bears.
“I kind of rushed it a little bit,” McClure said. “I could have got a better look.”
Drew didn’t have his full squad on hand as sophomore guard Mario Kegler will miss the first six games for violation of team policy while graduate transfer point guard Makai Mason sat out after tweaking his ankle.
Clark had the hot hand early for the Bears as he drove inside for a basket and took Vital’s pass for a slam to open up a 7-2 lead.
With Butler nailing a pair of 3-pointers, Texas Southern took an 8-7 edge. But the Bears answered with a 7-0 run as Devonte Bandoo came off the bench for a layup and a 3-pointer to take a 14-8 lead.
The Bears would never trail again in the first half as they kept stretching their lead. Freddie Gillespie hit a baseline jumper, freshman Jared Butler scored on a drive and Clark stepped outside and drained a 3-pointer to open up a 21-13 lead with 9:30 left in the first half.
The Tigers cut Baylor’s lead to 21-18 when Reed scored inside. But McClure got hot as he drilled an outside shot and then stepped farther outside and drained a pair of 3-pointers to stretch the Bears’ lead to 34-22.
McClure stayed hot as he scored on a pair of drives in the closing minutes of the first half to push Baylor’s lead to 40-27.
McClure remained hot to open the second half by hitting a pair of early baskets. Vital stepped outside and nailed a 3-pointer to match the number of 3s he hit as a freshman last season.
Vital showed his all-around game as he fired a pass inside to freshman Flo Thamba to stretch Baylor’s lead to 55-39.