By Larry Little
Baylor Bear Foundation
FORT HOOD - Already strapped for bodies, No. 22/23 Baylor was even more shorthanded Saturday night against Randall University in a game played at Fort Hood's 2,400-seat Abrams Gym. Nonetheless, the Bears (7-2) coasted to a 105-82 win despite lacking the services of senior point guard Manu Lecomte and redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital.
All five Baylor starters scored in double figures, and the Bears shot 57.1 percent from the field in a game that was short on defense. Randall (4-9) shot 47.6 percent, including a 55.2 mark in the second half.
Nuni Omot posted career highs with 30 points and six 3-pointers, adding three rebounds and six assists. King McClure also had career highs with 23 points and six assists and grabbed five rebounds. Tristan Clark and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. both posted double-doubles; Lual-Acuil had his by halftime.
"Mission accomplished," Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. "We won the game. Nobody got injured. It was a great cause and a great purpose."
This was the third consecutive season in which Baylor played a game at the Fort Hood Army base. The Bears defeated Hardin-Simmons in 2015 and Jackson State in 2016.
"I know our guys were a little more concerned with the offensive end, trying to entertain the crowd and give them things to cheer for, more than the defensive end," Drew said. "But they'll hear about the defensive end the next couple of days."
McClure said it's a game he anticipates due to the atmosphere at Abrams Gym and the honor of playing for the soldiers and their families.
"These people fight for our freedom and for our ability to play," McClure said. "We can never really thank them enough, but this is a small token we can show them our appreciation."
Drew opted to rest Lecomte, and Vital is nursing a hamstring strain. Both are expected to play in Baylor's next game on Thursday. The Bears had six scholarship players available for Saturday's game. "It's something you don't recommend," Drew said of playing with six scholarship players. "That's why they give you 13.
"With six guys, they're going to play hard on the offensive end, it's the defensive end where they're not going to exert all that effort. Credit Randall for shooting 55 percent (in the second half), but when you give up 48 (second-half) points, that's not good defense."
Randall University, formerly known as Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, is located in Moore, Oklahoma. The school has an enrollment of 400 students and, with 18 players on the roster, that means 4.5 percent of Randall's students are on the men's basketball team.
The Saints participate in the Southwest Region of the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association and has won back-to-back NCCAA national titles.
"Every coach values winning cultures," Drew said. "They've won three straight conference titles where they haven't lost a game. So, they're used to winning, and they're used to playing well."
Lual-Acuil's dunk at the 13:08 mark gave Baylor a 23-8 lead, but the Bears managed only one field goal over the next seven-plus minutes. Randall pulled to within five points with a 10-0 run during that stretch, but Baylor put together an 8-0 run in the first half's final 62 seconds for a 49-34 halftime lead.
Baylor hit on nine of its first 13 second-half field goals, including a stretch of eight straight. However, Randall was equally as sharp, draining eight of its first 12 second-half field goals. This allowed the Saints to pull within eight on two occasions.
But McClure's 3-pointer at the 12:49 mark sparked an 18-5 run, and Randall never again got within 15 points.
"We were missing some big parts of our team," Omot said. "It was an ugly win, but we still got the win." Omot, a senior in his second year with the Baylor program, said he has enjoyed playing at Fort Hood.
"Some of these people here, their parents may be serving overseas," he said. "They don't get a chance to watch college basketball. It was an honor to come down here and play."
Lual-Acuil finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, matching his career high points and establishing a career high in boards. Clark had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Playing in just his third collegiate game, redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Baylor had 31 assists as a team, the program's most in two years.
Fall semester final exams began Thursday and run through Wednesday. Baylor returns to action Thursday at the Ferrell Center, hosting Texas Southern for a 7:30 p.m. tip in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.