By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
For Scott Drew, just getting a top-five non-conference opponent to even come to the Ferrell Center was a huge win.
Beating No. 4 Oregon, 66-49, Tuesday afternoon as part of the ESPN College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon is the gift that will keep on giving all year long.
"It really helps RPI-wise for the rest of the year," Drew said, "because Oregon is a team that's going to win a lot of games. So, this is one of those wins that helps you all year long. We've been ranked in the top 25 the last nine years. This year, we haven't gotten a single vote (in the polls). I think people out there will know that we've still got a pretty good team. Now, you've got to deal with handling some success."
Oregon (1-1) was playing without preseason All-American Dillon Brooks, but the Ducks returned three other starters from last year's Elite Eight team that handed Baylor (2-0) a 74-67 loss 367 days ago in Eugene.
"There's no doubt he's a good player," Oregon coach Dana Altman said of Brooks, who had offseason foot surgery, "but we've got some other good players that didn't play very well. . . . We've got to do a better job, we've got to play better, guys have got to make plays."
At No. 4, Oregon is the highest-ranked non-conference opponent Baylor has ever beaten at home. The Bears beat then-No. 3 Arkansas, 82-77, on Feb. 10, 1990 in a Southwest Conference game.
"This is what you live for," said 7-foot junior center Jo Lual-Acuil, who had eight points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. "If you're not going to be excited about this, you should be doing different things."
With a chance to match up against an Oregon frontline that included 6-9 Jordan Bell, 6-10 Chris Boucher and 6-11 Kavell Bigby-Williams, Lual-Acuil was "really excited to show what he was capable of doing," Drew said.
The trickle-down effect is that going against shot blockers like 6-10 junior forward Johnathan Motley and Lual-Acuil every day in practice, "you're not intimidated."
"You're not like, `I didn't think I could get that,''' Drew said, "because you're used to being challenged."
Even without Brooks, the Ducks still put up a fight.
When junior guards Al Freeman and Manu Lecomte hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Baylor a 25-14 lead at the 7:42 mark, Oregon answered with a 9-2 run and closed the gap to 27-23 on a pair of free throws by Dylan Ennis.
The Bears went back up by double digits, 33-23, when Jake Lindsey drained a 3-pointer right before intermission.
"I thought we really shared the ball, especially in the beginning of the game," Drew said of the Bears getting 18 assists on 25 made baskets. "We really made the extra passes, and that's something we didn't do at their place (last year)."
With Baylor going scoreless for the first three minutes of the second half, missing three shots and turning it over twice, Oregon got back in it with a 9-0 run. Bell fed Boucher for a slam dunk that made it a one-point game, 33-32.
"Good teams are always going to make runs," Drew said. "What was important for us is last year we gave up 28 points off our turnovers, and today I believe it was just 12. We really moved the ball, didn't allow them to get in transition. And then rebounding-wise, we gave up 15 second-chance points last year, and this year we only gave up four. In those two areas, we really improved and really wanted to be focused on that."
Lecomte, who finished with 18 points and seven assists, helped the Bears end the Oregon run with dishes to Ishmail Wainright and Freeman for back-to-back layups that pushed the lead back to 38-32.
The Ducks were still within five about midway through the second half, but Lecomte buried another 3-pointer in a 15-5 run that gave the Bears some breathing room at 60-45 with 5:12 to go.
Returning from a one-game suspension, Motley chipped in with 17 points and seven rebounds. Baylor won the rebounding battle, 41-30, held Oregon to 32.8 percent shooting overall and just 3-of-21 from 3-point distance.
"Last year, we gave up the highest 3-point percentage in the Big 12," Drew said, "so I'm excited about holding them to 14 percent and holding Oral Roberts like we did. That's a tribute to the guys, when they step on the floor, regardless of what they do on the offensive end, being committed and making that effort on the defensive end."
Ennis and Boucher led the Ducks with 16 and 12 points, respectively, while Bell had eight points, 11 boards and four blocks.
Baylor will host Florida Gulf Coast (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Eagles opened with an 80-59 loss to Florida and will play UT-Arlington on Wednesday before making the trip to Waco.