No. 8 Baylor (1-0) knocked off Incarnate Word (0-1) —-. The Bears celebrated the national title with a ring ceremony beforehand, and MaCio Teague came back to receive his ring as well.
The talent differential between the two teams means there’s a lot we still don’t know about the Bears. The newness of the squad also matters. Last year’s squad—and we’ll continue to compare that squad to this one given its fresh and last year’s team won the whole thing if you forgot last year or the last paragraph!—was dominant from the jump. This one will take some time to figure things out.
But we learned some things about the team. Here are four things that stick out to me.
1) Jeremy Sochan is an excellent basketball player: The freshman who played in Poland showed a variety of skills tonight. He moved the ball well in transition and scored from the dunker spot. With 9:19 left, he ended up isolated. He played perfect defense, and with his long frame, he shut down any hope of an Incarnate Word bucket. Jerome Tang, in charge of Baylor's defense, went crazy on the bench.
Sochan showed some range as well. He has a superb feel for the game. His 10 points were huge.
2) Kendall Brown is Baylor’s best athlete since Perry Jones: It makes me feel old to think it’s been 11 years since Jones first played at Baylor! Brown displayed insane athleticism after he came over to steal the ball from Incarnate Word. He then ran the length of the floor and collected a James Akinjo pass for a one-handed slam:
Brown finished with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
3) The defense showed promise but is a work in progress:
The Bears clamped down for a good stretch in the second half. Early, Baylor’s switches were off. Incarnate Word would have someone set a screen for the screener, and Baylor elected to switch a ton. The Bears got beat a few teams on drives after switches.
Incarnate Word also did a nice job getting the ball from one side of the floor to the other. Baylor’s freshman—as good as they were tonight—had a few times where they were too far away from their man, which set up some good 3-point looks for Incarnate Word.
The defense did show promise though. Akinjo did a solid job fighting over screens late. Flo Thamba is a better rim presence this year (three blocks tonight); the freshmen took charges.
4) LJ Cryer is instant offense:
Cryer is my pick for Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. With Baylor down 12-6 early, he came in and provided 11 first half points, including two triples. The Bears started the season 0-of-7 from three, so his triples seemed to open things up.