By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Five days before Christmas, the 18th-ranked Baylor Bears were in a giving mood in Wednesday's game against the Southern University Jaguars, turning it over 21 times.
"The turnovers have been great up until the last two games," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team overcame a season-high 21 turnovers to defeat the visiting Jaguars, 80-60, before a Ferrell Center crowd of 5,877. "I guess Scrooge got in the building the last two games, we've got to get him out of here. We know we can't win in the Big 12 with 21 turnovers."
Manu Lecomte hit six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points, one of four players in double figures, as the Bears (10-2) won their fifth game in a row. King McClure hit two 3-pointers and scored 13 points, with Tristan Clark scoring 11 and Mark Vital 10.
Baylor had its inside-out game working, scoring 18 of its first 20 points in the paint and going 11-for-22 from outside the arc.
"The game plan, especially at the beginning of the game, is you want to go inside as much as you can," Lecomte said. "They're not missing down there, so you've got to keep feeding them. Then, the whole defense collapses when they're focusing on the inside, and that's when we have our kick-out 3's. It makes it so much easier for the guards to shoot 3's at a good percentage."
Southern (3-9) took leads of 11-8 and 13-10 in the first four minutes before the Bears went on a 13-0 run that included inside buckets from Clark, Jake Lindsey and King McClure and a trey by Lecomte to go up, 23-13.
"I thought the shots we had from 3 were good shots," Drew said. "The ones that we missed were, for the most part, good looks. Guys were unselfish. Normally, this time of the year when you're playing teams right before Christmas that most people think you should beat, you worry about people getting selfish and trying to get their numbers, and we didn't have that."
After leading by as many as 15, Baylor went into the locker room at halftime with a 39-27 lead. But, the Jaguars scored two quick buckets to start the second half and went on a 14-7 run to close within 46-40 on a jumper by Eddie Reese.
"We do have confidence, we don't panic as a team," Lecomte said. "We do need to take care of the ball way more. We had 21 turnovers, and that's way too much, no matter who we play. They got more shots up than us, because we didn't take care of the ball. If we cut the turnovers down, they don't come back."
Lindsey and Lecomte drained 3-pointers, followed by a monster slam dunk from Vital that pushed the lead back to 54-40. After that, the Jaguars never got closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"I thought we just kind of ran out of gas," Southern coach Morris Scott said. "Those guys are a great team, and they've got a lot of bigs that can come in and pound you on the inside. They do a great job with their team, and they knocked down some 3's and kind of got away from us in the second half."
Clark turned in one of his best all-around games, hitting 4-of-7 from the floor and scoring 11 points with eight rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals with no turnovers in 33 minutes.
"It's a process, but I'm definitely getting more comfortable out there as we continue to play games in the non-conference," Clark said. "I've had my ups and downs, but I'm getting better every day and learning from mistakes."
The Bears open league play with a matchup against No. 21 Texas Tech (10-1) at 7 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 29, in Lubbock.
"We did a bad job taking care of the ball, we didn't do a great job rebounding. But other than that, happy with the guys," Drew said. "And most of all, happy they get to go home for a happy Christmas."