Scott Drew has pieced together a bona fide team.
Throughout the game the Bears displayed excellent teamwork on both ends of the floor that helped Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte, and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. to stand out. Motley (17 Pts, 6 Rebs) and Lecomte (18 Pts, 4-5 3PT, 7 Ast) came away as Baylor’s only double-digit scorers, but 6 players recorded assists while as a team the Bears assisted 19 of their 25 makes.
On the other end, Lual-Acuil tallied 7 blocks, a number that surpassed Baylor’s team steal total by 2. He paired that with 14 total rebounds, 8 on the defensive end. Last season, the Bears dearly missed an inside defensive presence. Lual-Acuil might be the key to reestablishing Baylor’s zone defense.
On the other hand, Baylor’s perimeter defense still had some problems, even as the Bears swarmed the paint. Don’t let Oregon’s three point percentage fool you. The Ducks may have gone 3-21 today, but they missed a lot of open looks, many of those shots coming from the corners. Scott Drew plays the odds, betting that if he takes away the interior that the other team can’t hit enough long balls to overcome it. That bet paid off this time. We’ll see how it holds up over time.
As for the rest of the cast, the only Bear not to score was King McClure, who only took one shot. Windell “Chuck” Mitchell hit a circus-shot layup following an Acuil block on the other end and contributed to the team with solid defense and crisp, quick passing. Jake Lindsey, Al Freeman, Terry Maston, Wainright, and McClure all pitched in a little here and there, and it added up to a 17 point victory over a preseason top 5 team.
The fortitude and mental toughness of the team was on display as Oregon opened the second half with a 7 point run. Baylor held its ground, didn’t give up the lead, and eventually regained control and pulled away. Dylon Ennis and Jordan Bell did all they could for the Ducks, but Baylor showed itself to be a full team that could overcome the sterling offensive and defensive showings from those two.
In the first, Baylor looked to be control for all but a few minutes in the middle of the half. The Bears’ newcomers really shined. The smooth scoring of Lecomte (4-4 FG, 3-3 3PT in the first half) and the stout defense of Lual-Acuil (11 rebounds, 5 blocks in the first half) led the way, even as Motley led the team with 10 shot attempts.
Oregon’s lone first half push came between the 8 and 3 minute marks, when Dylan Ennis found his way to the basket in transition off the stellar rim defense of Jordan Bell, who collected 4 first half blocks, including two against Motley in one-on-one situations. Following the Duck’s 9-3 run, though, the Bears regained control with good all around team play. Motley popped in a long two, Acuil recorded a block, Lecomte forced a steal, and Lindsey drained a corner three as the halftime clock sounded.
Baylor has now started the season with a signature win that will help build their case come Selection Sunday. Even with Oregon missing its best player in Dillon Brooks, the Bears dominated a the #4 team in the country by 17 points as an unranked team. That’s big. Baylor should start receiving those AP Poll votes now.