By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Nothing that Savannah State did surprised the 21st-ranked Baylor Bears. Not even the mind-boggling 51 attempts from outside the 3-point arc.
The visiting Tigers knocked down a Ferrell Center-record 20 treys and got within 10 midway through the second half before the Bears went on an 11-0 run and pulled away for a 118-86 victory Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 6,996.
"If we're going to get our head cut off by Baylor, we're going to get it cut off doing what we do," said Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax, whose team fell to 3-10 while giving up over 100 points for the fourth straight game and eighth time this year. "I told them to stay to the script, and that's how we're going to play."
Baylor (9-2) also got up its share of 3-pointers, hitting 14-of-33. The difference was the inside presence of 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil, who had career highs for points (31) and rebounds (20) - the fifth 30-20 game in program history and the first since Johnathan Motley had 32 and 20 versus Texas on Jan. 17, 2017.
Lual-Acuil's career day came one day after going through graduation ceremonies in the same building, with his parents, an aunt and niece making the trip from the Sudan to watch.
"I couldn't have written it any better," he said. "It was great, having a career high in points and rebounds in front of my family after not seeing them for a long time. It pretty much caps off the week."
Four other Baylor players scored in double figures, with Manu Lecomte draining a career-best seven 3-pointers and finishing with a season-high 25 points, one off his career high.
King McClure and Nuni Omot knocked down three 3-pointers apiece and finished with 19 and 18 points, respectively, while redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital had 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 19 minutes off the bench.
"I think we did a great job as a team of finding each other," Lecomte said. "They did a great job finding me. We did a great job feeding Jo inside. Obviously, they couldn't stop him. It was a really fun game. Like Coach said, we had a lot of assists as a team (32 on 41 made buckets), so that's always a positive."
After trading buckets early, the Tigers missed 13 shots in a row in close to a six-minute scoring drought as the Bears went on a 21-0 run to go up 37-12. Baylor hit five 3-poointers in a run that was capped by Tristan Clark's short jumper in the lane off a dish from McClure.
Trailing by as many as 31, Savannah State hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the last 2:46 of the half to cut the deficit to 61-37 going into the locker room.
Things got even more interesting in the second half when the Tigers had a 14-2 run to pull within 78-68 on one of Dexter McClanahan's six 3-pointers.
"It's really a tough team to play, because all they do is shoot 3's," Lecomte said. "It's hard, especially with our zone. We had to adjust a lot, actually, so it was weird."
Drew said that when a team shoots that many 3-pointers, "you can get back in the game so quick."
"There's certain games where a 10-point lead is like a 20-point lead and a 20-point lead is like a 10-point lead," Drew said. "This is one of those games where a 20-point game is like a 10-point lead."
Baylor used its inside strength in an 11-0 run to stretch the lead back, feeding Lual-Acuil for three buckets and a follow free throw and getting another pair on a dicing drive to the basket by junior guard Jake Lindsey. The Bears finished with a 54-20 edge on points in the paint and outrebounded the Tigers, 58-26.
"You take out that 10 minutes in the second half, and it was a good day for us," Drew said. "At this time of the year, every time you turn on the TV there's upsets. So, the most important thing is to get the win. And we did that."
The Bears scored the most points in the Drew era and their most ever in the Ferrell Center, falling four points shy of the arena-record 122 that Texas Tech scored in 1995.
Baylor has some work to do on its transition defense, because "there are a lot of Big 12 teams that are going to push it."
"Everyone wants to get easy buckets. So, whenever you can work on transition defense, (it's a good thing)," he said. "The difference would be they're going to get a shot up if they're guarded or not. Sometimes they make it and sometimes they don't, and that's what makes them dangerous."
Redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly did not play in the game (coach's decision), but "should be back" when the Bears host Southern University (3-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in their final pre-conference game. Baylor opens league play with a trip to Lubbock to face 24th-ranked Texas Tech (9-1) on Dec. 29.