After a sluggish first half, the Baylor Bears turned up the tempo and managed to hit their threes and free throws to pull away from the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders. Manu Lecomte led all scorers with 23 points on 5-8 shooting while going a perfect 10-10 from the line. In the final couple of minutes both Nuni Omot and Mark Vital tried to tear the rim down, and T.J. Maston secured his second double-double in as many games with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Baylor’s defense was excellent all game, enabling them to carry a lead into half until the offense started clicking in the second. TAMUCC shot only 36% from the field and had one shooting foul all game, giving Baylor a huge advantage from the free throw line. The Bears attempted 24 free throws to TAMUCC’s 4. The Islanders had a tough time settling in offensively with Scott Drew changing the defensive scheme with regularity.
Baylor was much more aggressive in the second half attacking off Islander misses. Lecomte got into the paint more in the half court, and Baylor generally was aggressive. Vital had a nice play attacking a closeout that resulted in an and-one, and King McClure attacked a couple of closeouts, once scoring in the paint and a second time warping the defense to open up an opportunity for a teammate.
Lecomte really stepped up in the second half. TAMUCC clogged the paint whenever Baylor tried to post up, making life tough inside for Jo Lual-Acuil and Tristan Clark. Lecomte adjusted and took more control of the game by attacking in transition before the Islanders could get set.
The first half was a slog for both teams, but especially the Bears. Baylor shot 7-14 from the free throw line, and it wasn’t until the final minutes of the half that Lecomte hit his 4 free throws he earned by driving into the paint when his outside shot would not fall. As a team, Baylor was 1-9 from deep. Regression to the mean doesn’t mean a terrible shooting night will follow a hot one, but after a record percentage from three in game one, this game serves as a reminder that sometimes, a team just doesn’t have it.
Baylor had some success getting the ball inside and drawing fouls, but no one could finish through even weak contact, leading to plenty of empty trips to the charity stripe.
Maston was Baylor’s best offensive player with 8 points on 3-6 shooting. He had to deal with early double teams before even receiving the ball in the post. Vital’s defender would sag off him in the corner to cause trouble for Maston in the paint at every opportunity. It’s only game two, and the scouting report on Vital is already to leave him alone on the perimeter. Vital will have to make defenses pay for ignoring him by attacking closeouts with the ball and back-cutting. He has shown aggression attacking the rim, but he left his feet on one occasion attacking out of the corner, a situation he will see a lot of as the season goes on. He made a great cut on one such possession, and he managed to drain a long jumper when the defense eased off. He will have to make plays like those to keep earning minutes in conference play.
Baylor’s defense in the first half was largely effective. TAMUCC shot only 37% from the field and took just one foul shot once they got into the bonus. The Bears did a good job defending without fouling and made most every shot tough. Drew regularly mixed man-to-man with zone. The only defensive shortcoming was 6 offensive rebounds for the Islanders.
The Bears have shown they can win games in multiple ways. Game one was an offensive display, and the defense had to carry game two. Of course, neither of these games was against a very threatening opponent, but it’s good that Baylor has had the experience of both styles before facing a more challenging team.