By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Given that the alternative was another closed practice in their respective gyms, the Baylor and Houston basketball teams would have picked Saturday’s charity exhibition game every time.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said after the Bears lost to the visiting Cougars, 81-78, before a crowd of 2,551 at the Ferrell Center. “Coaches love scrimmages. It allows you to start to improve on areas that need to be worked on, that you might not have known needed to improve.”
And as both coaches said, the real winner was the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Granted a waiver to play the additional exhibition game, Baylor raised $10,015 in ticket sales and donations, with a matching gift from the Texas Farm Bureau bringing the total to $20,030.
“We’ve been able to help a lot of people, not nearly enough,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. “Seventy percent of our city was underwater, so it’s going to be a long time. The cameras left us, but Hurricane Harvey hasn’t left us. He left us the remnants that we’ve had to pick up. I really appreciate Scott allowing us to come here and do this. Every dollar raised is going directly to (Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s) hurricane relief fund, and that’s the real winner today.”
Both teams came into the exhibition game shorthanded, with the Cougars missing starting point guard Galen Robinson and the Bears down to seven scholarship players. Freshman Tristan Clark was held out with an injury, redshirt freshman guard Tyson Jolly is dealing with a medical issue and sophomore forward Leonard Allen is on indefinite leave of absence, while Baylor also has two transfers sitting out.
“(Clark) got injured the other day, and we elected not to play him because we want to make sure we get him for the next scrimmage,” Drew said. “It’s unfortunate, because the one thing coaches want to have in scrimmages is opportunities for the new guys to get minutes and see what they can do and most of all get the nerves out, and get them used to playing in a game. The good thing is we have two scrimmages left to do that against quality competition.”
Houston turned out to be quality competition as well, taking the lead for good with 4:29 left on a driving layup by Rob Gray. A first-team all-conference pick who led the American Athletic Conference in scoring a year ago, the 6-1 junior guard had a double-double with 25 points and 11 assists.
Senior center Jo Lual-Acuil led four Baylor players in double figures with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Manu Lecomte had a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists, but also had six of the Bears’ 22 turnovers.
“It’s really concerning, and surprising,” Drew said. “With King (McClure), Jake (Lindsey) and Manu being more experienced guards, you wouldn’t expect that. I think it helps us in practice to call more traveling, because we had a few too many of those and we need to prepare for how those are going to be called during the game. If we were turning it over that much in practice and you saw that during the game, we would be even more concerned. We haven’t had that many in practice.”
Houston scored the first nine points of the game and went up 11-2 on a layup by Devin Davis, who added 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. But, Lecomte hit back-to-back treys and Terry Maston nailed two free throws in an 8-0 run that pulled the Bears back within 11-10.
Baylor led by as many as four and then rallied to tie it at the half, 36-36, on a pair of free throws by Lual-Acuil, who was 8-of-11 from the charity stripe.
After Gray gave the Cougars the late lead, he hit 7-of-8 free throws in the last 32 seconds to help ice the game.
“It’s probably the only time after a loss coaches sleep OK,” Drew said. “The good thing is both of us playing in scrimmages this early shows us what we need to work on and what we need to adjust and improve on.
“As far as numbers, we should be getting some people back, hopefully soon. What you typically expect to see is a lot of turnovers early and some plays that obviously aren’t what you see in the regular season. We will get to work and try to be better for our next scrimmage.”
The Bears will tip off the regular season with a home matchup against Central Arkansas at noon on Nov. 10. For single-game or season tickets, call the Baylor Athletics Ticket Office at 254-710-1000 or go online at www.baylorbears.com/tickets.