By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
On a night when Baylor handed out LED wristbands to light up the Ferrell Center, Manu Lecomte did his part to light up the scoreboard.
Hitting six of his seven 3-pointers and scoring 25 of his career-high 30 points in the second half, Lecomte helped the Bears (12-6, 2-4) snap a two-game losing skid with a decisive 76-60 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-6, 2-4) before a crowd of 6,078.
"I haven't been shooting well the last few games, but one thing is I never give up," said Lecomte, who was just 7-of-34 from 3-point range in the first five conference games. "I still believe in myself, I'm still a good shooter. I know things are going to change. And my teammates, obviously, did a great job finding me."
Particularly freshman forward Mark Vital, who had a game- and career-high eight assists, two less than OSU's team.
"Manu is an easy assist," said Vital, who added three points, two steals and a team-high 10 rebounds. "I feel like even when he doesn't make shots, in my eyes it's still a make. You saw what he was doing tonight. He put on a good show."
The Cowboys, who overcame a late 12-point deficit to beat Texas 65-64 on Saturday, simply had no one to answer Lecomte's hot shooting. In fact, Baylor's senior point guard outscored OSU's five starters, 30-20.
"Until that last basket, I looked up and we had nine assists against a team that plays predominately zone," OSU head coach Mike Boynton said. "That means we're not playing with very good flow offensively. Anytime you have to force shots playing one-on-one versus a zone, it's not going to be good for you."
Neither team showed much on the offensive end in the first half, going a combined 23-of-58 overall and 5-of-19 from outside the arc as OSU took a 27-26 lead into the break. Heating up after the break, Lecomte hit nine of 11 from the field and 6-of-9 from outside the arc.
You knew it was his night when he drained five 3-pointers in a row in a stretch that saw the Bears stretch a two-point game to a 13-point lead, 55-42, with 8:04 to play. But, his last points were the craziest, a three-point play on an off-balance floater in the lane and follow free throw.
"It was great to see Manu catch on fire, and it was great to see the team be real excited for him," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "He has the confidence of the team, and the players made sure he knew the only time they're upset with him is if he turns down shots. But, it was great to see him get on a roll in the second half and give us separation."
While Baylor's reserves got a bench warning for jumping up after one of Lecomte's seven 3-pointers, the loudest roar of the night came at the 11:50 mark in the second half when public address announcer Derek Smith relayed the information that Baylor had canceled Tuesday's classes because of the expected overnight snow storms.
"I didn't know what the cheer was. I thought they were showing one of the highlights of Manu's 3's or something," Drew said. "But, it got pretty loud. I know our players looked around."
Drew credited the vocal student section for giving the team a big boost on a night when the Bears desperately needed a victory.
"Everyone likes to play in front of larger crowds and louder crowds," he said. "The students definitely gave us that tonight, a night with the weather it might not have been that way. So, we can't thank them enough for that."
After Baylor hit seven of its first 11 shots to go up 15-5 in the first nine minutes, OSU answered with a 14-2 run and went up 19-17 on a three-point play by point guard Brandon Averette. With the Bears cooling off, they trailed 27-26 going into the intermission.
Lecomte opened the second half by draining a 3-pointer off a pass-out from freshman Tristan Clark, giving Baylor the lead for good.
"I think he got a couple easy ones, a couple that weren't as contested as they need to be," Boynton said. "For a really good player, a really good scorer like he is, you don't need all of them to be uncontested. You just need to see the ball go through the basket a few times."
The Bears also got 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks out of 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil, helping Baylor win the rebounding battle, 36-31, and outscore the Cowboys, 30-20, in the paint. Terry Maston also had a solid night off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes, while Cameron McGriff scored 16 and Tavarius Shine 14 for OSU.
"We were in a slump, obviously. We needed that win, and we got it and we got it as a team," Lecomte said. "Even though I had 30, I don't care what anybody says, it was really a team effort today. I really love this team, I love all of them, really."
Baylor goes back on the road for the third time in four games, facing 10th-ranked Kansas (15-3, 5-1) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. The Jayhawks overcame a 16-point deficit to upset No. 6/7 West Virginia, 71-66, Monday night in Morgantown.