UCA scored its first second half points at the 13:07 mark. That was Baylor’s statement of the game in the Bears 93-56 win over University of Central Arkansas. Davion Mitchell had the passing game of his season so far with 6 points and a stellar 12 assists. MaCio Teague was the leading scorer in the game with 20 points after a slow start, while four other Bears scored in double figures.
Mitchell and Jared Butler were in complete control of the game from the opening tip. Mitchell and Butler knocked down back to back threes to open the game, and Butler flashed the evolution of his game driving to the lane and fooling his defender with a fake pass to the corner. He could get to his floater at any time he wanted. Mitchell, meanwhile, served up dimes all over the floor, swinging the ball to the wings for threes and over the top to Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua for several ferocious dunks. Tchamwa Tchatchoua finished the game with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds while going a perfect 6-6 from the floor.
Matthew Mayer also had a solid game off the bench. He scored 13 points and added aggression driving to the rim that was lacking at times. His increased strength and improved handle make him a great threat to attack closeouts and absorb contact at the rim. He, Mark Vital, and Tchamwa Tchatchoua continue to provide exactly the kind of support that the guards need.
UCA looked sharp from outside today, particularly in the first half when they were 8-15 from deep for 53%. They would finish 43% from three. Deandre Jones led UCA with 19 points and 69 3PT. He took full advantage of the late rotations and missed assignments that Baylor had in the first half.
Baylor shot the cover off the ball in the first half, making up for what was otherwise a sloppy showing after the Christmas break. Butler led the way by shooting 4-5 from three, while the team was 10-19. That hot shooting offset the 8 turnovers and laggardly defense that allowed UCA to shoot 8-15 from three. The Bears’ defensive rotations were sloppy and uncoordinated at times, and UCA caught them ball-watching several times down the floor.
Scott Drew showed a commitment to having three guards on the floor at all times. Three of the five guards were on the floor at all times for the Bears, and interesting development for LJ Cryer, especially. His role seems to be growing as the season progresses, at least against the non-conference slate. He adds a deadly shooting option next to the capable ball-handling that the other four guards provide.
Today was a further demonstration of how loaded Baylor’s backcourt is. Mitchell and Butler are clearly the top two guards on the roster so far this season, but Teague and Flagler aren’t far behind. Mitchell and Butler has assist rates of 37% and 29% respectively. Mitchell, meanwhile, has knocked down over half his threes and has 2.3 steals per game. There just aren’t stats to capture how much of a nightmare he is as a defender. Teague, meanwhile, is averaging more than 5 rebounds a game, a high number for a guard who’s also knocking down 40% of his threes. Then there’s Flagler, who is shooting 55% from the floor, 87.5% from the line, 48% from three, and sports a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio. Baylor’s guard rotation is unassailable. Each player is average to elite in all categories, and each excels in a fashion complementary to the other three. All four can create off the dribble and present a threat off the ball. There are no weaknesses - only strengths.
Not enough can be said about how truly elite Baylor is as a team. The Bears are no worse than average in any single defensive statistic and rank in the top 20 in the disruptive categories like steal rate and turnover rate. Offensively, the only thing they don’t do well is get to the line. That’s more than made up for, however, by the fact that they are the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the nation. The guards come in waves, and the bigs contribute high energy, high intelligence defense while presenting a great vertical threat diving to the rim.
Baylor’s ability to tighten up mistakes from one half to another forebodes ill for Alcorn State tomorrow. The sloppiness of the first half (8 turnovers, only 11 forced turnovers while allowing 53% 3PT) flipped around in a big way following the break (2 turnovers, 13 forced turnovers, 36% 3PT). If it took the Bears one half to wake up from their Christmas slumber, Scott Drew will take that. They play again tomorrow at 2PM CT.