After a close halftime score of 31-27, Baylor took control of the game in the second half to beat Southern 80-53.
Unlike the Bears’ first game, the team stayed focused and build on its lead. The man defense remained intense, generating turnovers, while the offense found some success from beyond the arc.
Devonte Bandoo had his breakout game, scoring 25 points on 7-12 FG with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. He was 4-8 from three and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. While Baylor won’t rely on him to score 25 every night, it will count on his shooting from deep to spread opposing defenses. His ability to drive against closeouts and to finish around the rim in transition are a bonus.
As a team, Baylor shot 44% (28-63) from the floor and 71% (15-21) from the line. The quality of shot was much higher tonight than on Tuesday. More shots came within the flow of the offense or after more than one pass. When Baylor started to pull away with a little over 14 minutes remaining, the Bears hit three consecutive assisted threes: one by Bandoo in transition, one by Jared Butler off a drive and kick from Bandoo, and the third by Darius Allen off a drive and kick from Mark Vital. Sequences like that make best use of the perimeter talent on this roster. The Bears just need to keep their heads about them.
Tristan Clark had an excellent game, but still only played 22 minutes due to foul trouble. He finished with a line of 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 8-9 FG. Where Clark gets in the most trouble is defending screens. While Scott Drew had the bigs dropping back in coverage early in the game, he called for them to blitz the ball handler in the second half. While it resulted in a couple of turnovers, it also lead to blow-bys and fouls for both Clark and Freddie Gillespie (0 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 fouls in 22 minutes). Neither Clark nor Gillespie has the foot speed to guard switches, and if they try to hard hedge starting too far back, they both sprint to reach their spot and smash into the ball handler. Those hard hedges are going to get them killed against better competition. Drew needs to implement a more conservative coverage down the road or risk getting roasted.
Matthew Mayer played much the same game as on Tuesday, just with better results. He finished with 12 points on 9 shots while shooting 5-6 from the line. He had ups and downs. At one point in the first half, he hoisted a three in a 1-on-5 situation and was immediately benched. Late in the second half, he made the extra pass to corner shooters and hit Flo Thamba rolling to the rim and in good post position. He still has a lot of dumb plays to cut out, but those are much more palatable when he also makes good plays.
For Southern, Eddie Reese lead the team with 18 points on 6-9 shooting. He is a quick, left-handed guard who was able to run past Baylor’s big men on switches and get to the rim. He was Southern’s only reliable offense, but he did little to involve his teammates, finishing with 0 assists.
Baylor limited Southern to only 7 assists on 17 made baskets while also forcing 20 turnovers. The Bears looked much more comfortable in their man defense tonight. They jumped passing lanes and got out in transition for easy baskets. Against higher level competition some of the weaknesses (such as lagging defense on pick and rolls or switches) will be exploited more, but for tonight it was good to see the team defense begin to gel.
On the other end, Baylor assisted on 19 of 28 makes with only 9 turnovers. King McClure led the team with 7 assists and was influential in the game despite scoring only 2 points. He was a steady presence on both ends, making the right play and not forcing the action.
Baylor’s next opponent will be Prairie View A&M (1-0) on Monday night. As Makai Mason was again a game-time decision tonight, hopefully his ankle will be good to go for his first Baylor start then.