By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
After setting school records for field goal percentage and 3-point shooting percentage in a 41-point blowout victory in Friday's season opener, the 25th-ranked Baylor men found the going a lot tougher in Monday's matchup against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The Bears (2-0) missed their first eight shots from outside the 3-point arc and seven of their first eight from the free throw line, but used a 10-0 second-half run and a 23-point night by senior point guard Manu Lecomte to finally pull away from the Islanders, 70-46.
"You come off a game where everything is so easy and you're making shots, and now you're missing shots and playing a lot more defense . . . it just starts to build and you get frustrated," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Each game is going to be different. That's why you play a non-conference schedule, so you can get used to things that are different."
One thing that wasn't different was Lecomte. After a slow start that saw him miss his first two 3-pointers, Lecomte drained three of his last five and was 10-for-10 from the line to score 23 points after a 22-point outing in the opener.
"Coach Drew trusts me at the end of the shot clock to have the ball in my hands, coming off ball screens, one-on-one, whatever," he said. Drew said Lecomte "really changed the tide" when he started knocking down 3-pointers and hitting his free throws.
In that 10-0 second-half run, Lecomte drained a 3-pointer, made a couple free throws and then fed Nuni Omot for a trey that turned a two-point lead into a 12-point cushion in a hurry, 40-28.
"I thought we played well in the first half, we just didn't make shots," Lecomte said. "We still played good defense and made some plays, just didn't make shots. . . . (In the second half), there was just an energy level on both ends of the floor."
Baylor didn't hit its first 3-pointer of the night until Lecomte finally took the lid off the bucket with a long-distance trey at the 2:05 mark that helped the Bears take a 28-22 lead into the locker room. There were four ties and 14 lead changes in a first half that really saw both teams struggle on the offensive end.
Things didn't start off that well in the second half, either, with the Bears missing their first six shots and going over three minutes without scoring a single point until a pair of free throws by Lecomte.
"With them switching on every ball screen, we hadn't really faced that," said senior forward Terry Maston, who posted his second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. "That was something we had to adjust to. Otherwise, it was on us to make shots and block out, because they did a really good job of rebounding and being very physical on the offensive and defensive glass."
Baylor finally got it going on the offensive end in the second half, with Omot providing a SportsCenter exclamation point with an impressive throw-down dunk over 6-8 forward Elijah Schmidt with 2:14 left off a dish from Lecomte.
"He had one a little similar (in practice), but nothing like that," Maston said. "He just kept going up and up and up."
Drew actually missed it live, so he'll have to catch the replay or maybe watch the ESPN SportsCenter highlights.
"I was talking to some people at the end of the bench, and then the next thing I knew I got trampled," he said. "But, Nuni has those capabilities in practice to throw something down that will get your attention. Mark (Vital has) had several of those, too."
In fact, the 6-5 redshirt freshman forward followed up Omot's with one of his own off an assist from Maston the next time down the floor.
Omot finished with 12 points, while Joseph Kilgore lead the Islanders (1-1) with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Baylor finishes out a season-opening three-game home stand and goes for Drew's 300th career victory when the Bears host Alcorn State at 8 p.m. Friday.