By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Looking nothing like a team that was playing its first game in 11 days, the No. 4/5 Baylor Bears scored the first 11 points and streaked to an 89-59 win over Southern University Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center.
Johnathan Motley pumped in the first seven points and notched his seventh career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Bears improved to 9-0 for the first time in five years.
"Especially coming off finals, you never what to expect," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "You're always worried, is the team going to be focused, are they going to have their legs, are they going to come out and not be ready to go? We got out to a great start and got separation early, and then did a good job of maintaining that."
Any questions about being ready were answered in the first three minutes, with Jo Lual-Acuil providing the exclamation point on an 11-0 start with a dunk off an assist from Al Freeman.
"It's tough going through stretches where you don't have a game and you're taking tests and studying," Motley said. "So, we were very eager to get out here and handle business. I know I had fun just getting out there and playing again. I was looking forward to it all week, and I know my teammates were doing the same thing. I was just glad to get out there and play again."
While Shawn Prudhomme and Jared Sam scored 24 points apiece for Southern (4-6), Baylor's better-balanced attack featured five double-figure scorers. Ishmail Wainright and Al Freeman each had 14 points and Lual-Acuil and King McClure chipped in 10 points apiece for the Bears.
Making his Baylor debut, 6-9 junior forward Nuni Omot hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points off the bench.
"You knew when he got out there that there would be some jitters, there would be some excitement," Drew said. "And now, we've got 18 minutes of film to help him get better and help him relax a little bit. . . . . He's another guy that's a good teammate, makes the right plays, not a selfish player, a fundamentally sound player, and somebody that can definitely provide something for the team."
After the Bears blew it open, taking a 25-point lead on a Motley three-point play, Southern answered with an 8-0 run and closed the gap to 43-26 on a jumper by Prudhomme. But Omot and Jake Lindsey canned 3-pointers in a closing 9-0 run that had it back out to 52-26 at the break.
Baylor did struggle at the start of the second half, scoring just nine points in the first 11 minutes and seeing its lead whittled to 19. But then McClure and Wainright drained 3-pointers, followed by a McClure dunk off an assist from Lindsey and another McClure jumper.
Lindsey and Manu Lecomte both had eight assists, with the Bears assisting on 22 of their 36 made field goals.
"One good thing about Manu is eight assists, one turnover, so he impacts the game in a different way," Drew said of Lecomte, who was just 2-of-7 from the floor and 1-of-6 from 3-point range. "We know the shooting isn't always going to be there. But we do know that the assist-to-turnover ratio needs to be there, and the defense needs to be there. And he gives us that."
Junior forward Terry Maston served a one-game discipline for showing up to the game late, but he should return for Saturday's 5 p.m. game at Fort Hood against Jackson State. The Bears play four games in eight days, hosting John Brown at 3:30 p.m. Sunday and Texas Southern at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 21.