WACO, TEXAS — Today’s game had three goals: win, stay healthy, and run the fundamental stuff they’ve been drilling all offseason.
The Baylor Bears accomplished all three of those goals with a 117-53 win over Mississippi Valley State. Baylor was led by Adam Flagler with 21 points on an efficient 6-9 shooting. His calm demeanor helped lift the Bears out of sluggish moments of the game. He also tallied 8 assists.
Coach Scott Drew was especially pleased by the assists after the game: “Every coach in the country will take 27 assists to 9 turnovers every day of the week and twice a day on Sundays. This group has been an unselfish group in practice.”
Keyonte George scored 13 points but dealt out 7 assists with 8 rebounds and a block while playing engaged defense. It wasn’t the scoring outburst that was hoped for, but it was encouraging to see him assimilate into the team on both sides of the floor. “We were really surprised in Canada with Keyonte…he really passed the ball well,” Drew said after the game. “His ability to get his teammates shots is something that’s tremendous. Seven assists, 1 turnover, that’s outstanding growth by him.” Particularly in the first half, George had a team-oriented approach to start the game. He had more assists (7) than field goal attempts (5). He was 0-4 from three, but locked in on defense with a deflection and a massive block where he essentially took the ball away from the defender before it came off his hand. He had a team high 39 +/- just in the first half. He finished a +56 for the game.
This was the first time Baylor eclipsed the 100 point mark since a 104-68 win over Northwestern State on December 28th last season. They met that mark with 5:35 left in the game today. The 6,000 elementary school students in attendance roared in approval. This may be the right moment to note the Delta Devils entered the game as the third worst team in the country, per KenPom.
In the first half, the Bears took some time to find their shot. Baylor was 0-7 on its first three point attempts. They scored just 16 points in the first 10 minutes of play.
Then Flagler hit a three, and the floodgates broke loose.
The Bears made 6 of their next 7 attempts following Flagler’s three and exploded for 61 points in the first half, capped by a Flagler drive to beat the buzzer with a layup. They finished the half shooting 43.8% from three and 55.9% from the floor.
On the other end of the floor, Baylor’s defense looked energized and alert. Mississippi Valley shot just 19% from the floor and scored 11 of their 21 points from the free throw line. Fouling was, in fact, the only detractor on that side of the floor in the first half. The Bears committed 14 personal fouls.
Perhaps the simplest stat that tells the story of the game: Baylor had a 26-2 run in just over 4 minutes.
The defense was fully locked-in despite the level of opponent. MSVS turned the ball over 32% of the time, nearly as often as they scored. “We did a great job limiting them to one, the defense got better the more we played,” Drew said after the game.
Langston Love looked confident driving to the basket. Coming back from an ACL injury that held him out for his freshman season last year, there was no guarantee he would have the same mentality in his return, especially while wearing a knee brace in his first game action as a Bear. Love didn’t seem bothered one bit. With 13 points and 7 rebounds, Love was in the mix all game.
Drew had a big smile on his face when asked about Love’s return.“Really excited to see how aggressive he was. He hadn’t been back long, and it’s been a process,” Drew said. “Langston’s really worked hard, and in the last month completely different player. And I think in the next couple of months, same thing - he’ll continue that upward swing.”
Jalen Bridges and Jacob Lohner were as-advertised. Both played extremely hard, ran the floor, and shut down their man defensively. They combined for 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals. That’s exactly the complementary play that this team needs from its transfer wings this season. “It’s as different level of toughness they bring,” Flagler commented after the game. Knowing they are there to receive kick-out dagger threes, too, just makes the team more complete.
Dale Bonner looks aggressive and just may have his shot back from deep: 14 points, 3-4 shooting, and 5 assists is some high-level play from a backup guard. Opponent considered, of course.
Of note, Drew commented on the last minute announcement that Dantwan Grimes will be redshirting this season: “We present options to guys, we don’t make anybody redshirt…he might be our best on-ball defender in practice at times. God gave him an elite ability of burst and speed you can’t teach…he’s going to be someone you guys really like watching in the future.”
Overall, it was a great game for the energy of the team and to put some things on tape for the coaches and players to review in practice. With 6 players scoring double-digits and everyone else filling their roles, there was a lot to be happy with for a first game of the season.
Baylor takes the floor again on Friday at 7pm in Waco in a revenge spot for Norfolk State, Baylor’s first round opponent in last season’s NCAA Tournament.