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Baylor Dominates Second Half for 76-61 Win Over Xavier

Baylor moves to 8-0 with more second half brilliance

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Baylor Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

Trailing by three to start the second half, Baylor blew out Xavier 45-27 in the second half for another commanding win over a top ten team. In its last three comeback wins, The Bears have blown out opponents in the second half 43-27, 43-25, and 42-24.

Manu Lecomte spearheaded Baylor’s third win over a top ten team with 24 points, 5 assists, and 6-9 three-point shooting. Pretty nice game for him, including a career high in points and some slick assists.

The defense, this time the zone, deserves a lot of credit for executing the gameplan in the second half. After allowing too many offensive rebounds and extra chance points in the first half, Baylor locked down and prevented the Musketeers from scoring even after collecting the offensive board. The Bears also protected the paint against penetration despite the size of Xavier’s guards, forcing them to live on the perimeter or risk turning the ball over passing inside. After feeling it from deep in the first half, Xavier went a mere 4-17 from deep. Scott Drew’s bet that teams can’t hit enough threes to keep up with Baylor’s inside scoring continues to pay off.

In the first half, Xavier held onto control of the game with threes and offensive rebounding. Going 5-11 from deep with 10 offensive rebounds will keep a team in just about any game. Trevon Bluiett was 3-5 from deep himself while Tyrique Jones and RaShid Gaston combined for 7 offensive boards. For Baylor’s part, it did well to stay within three after 20 minutes. Eight of Baylor’s 34 first half shots were long twos, 10 if you count a pair of free throw line jumpers. The Bears hit only 3 of those shots. To go along, Baylor also went 3-12 from beyond the arc, where Manu Lecomte was the only Bear to find his stroke. Xavier’s defense is built to force long jumpers, and it worked well enough to earn them a 3 point lead at the break.

Baylor made a point of driving into the lane and passing the ball into the elbows to crack the zone. Ish Wainright and Lecomte made excellent passes to open teammates, and everyone made the extra pass to keep the ball moving until the right shot appeared.

Jo Lual-Acuil collected another 6 blocks and added 12 points on 6-10 shooting without committing a turnover. He looks gangly and awkward with the ball in his hands, but he has surprising touch near the basket, and even when his slow decision-making can stall out a possession, he doesn’t make the bad pass that leads to a live ball turnover.

Johnathan Motley had another ho-hum 17 and 8 game. He also drained a three. The dude cannot be stopped.

Neither can the duo of King McClure and Jake Lindsey. Those two were again on the floor as Baylor pulled away, much like the Louisville game. Their length and activity on defense both their opponents in both man and zone, and their preternatural cool on the offensive end means that even when they don’t explode for 15+ points they are contributing to the whirring, humming offensive machine Scott Drew has constructed.

For Xavier, Bluiett and Edmond Sumner did everything, combining for 42 of their team’s 61 points. Only one other player scored more than 5 points for the Musketeers, however, and eventually the jumper just went dry. Baylor’s defense set up a wall around the rim, and hustle plays from Wainright and Lindsey, plus some excellent perimeter defense by Terry Maston, meant that Xavier’s signature toughness just wasn’t enough.

Baylor has the resume to be a top five team, and maybe deserves more number one votes. There is little arguing the Bears have the best resume in basketball, and with a lighter schedule to close out the non-conference, Baylor should be 12-0 headed into its conference opener in Norman on December 30.