The only thing more thrilling that Jayden Nunn’s 25 point performance and perhaps even more touching than Austin Sacks’ first career points, was the full court made shot in the Mattson Putt. The Baylor Bears won 99-61 over the UMKC Roos.
Nunn showed off just what he is capable of with the ball in his hands. His physical driving doesn’t lack craft. Three times he drove and drew contact for the and-one, bating the defender on his hip into the foul and finishing through the contact. He also showed that he can fill it up from three when left open, going 4-5 from deep.
Nunn revealed later that the perforce may not have been totally random. “I did a different pre-game routine. I did not see it coming,” he said of his play. “I always been reading Proverbs, you know, but I did a lift with Coach Charlie before the game. I felt like that helped a little.” Nunn was so locked in that he didn’t know he had scored 14 straight points in the first half until he was asked about it after the game.
Ja’Kobe Walter (23 pts, 4-6 3PT, 7-7 FT) was no slouch, either. He managed to score 8 points on just two shots and could get to the line whenever he wanted. Walter continues to display a game that is at once dominant yet never forced. He finds open space, maintains his balance at all times, and just can’t miss from the free throw line.
“Ja’Kobe has 23, and it’s not like you’re running every play for him. He just lets the game come to him,” Drew praised Walter, the first Baylor freshman to win Big 12 Player of the Week in program history.
This is the third game in four that Baylor has crested 30 free throw attempts. “[The new block-charge rule] definitely helps this team, it helps us,” said Drew. “And I think, from our scrimmages and our times we’ve had officials, this team gets to the free throw line a lot. And that’s hopefully something that can continue.” Baylor only attempted more than 30 free throws five times all of last season and never attempted that many in the year before.
Unsurprisingly, the defense was locked in against UMKC, holding them to less than a point per possession, surprisingly a higher scoring rate than John Brown of Gardner Webb. This Baylor team has obvious defensive talent this season. Continued reps even in games like these will pay dividends as the year goes on.
Following a game against Gardner Webb in which Baylor failed to make a three in a game for the first time since the George H. W. Bush administration, the Bears looked spry from deep, going 13-23. That’s impressive for the fourth game in seven days, when it’d be understandable to have some dead legs.
“When you play a lot of games in a short period of time, legs go,” Scott Drew commented after the game. “And when legs go, it’s hard to shoot. I thought we had better legs tonight.”
Nunn was the story of the first half offensively fro the Bears. He scored 19 points before half and scored 14 straight points for Baylor as they began to truly separate from the Roos. Nunn had it going off the dribble and outside, the offense giving him easy decisions, even as both and-one finishes were strong through contact.
Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua saw the floor for the first time in a week, an encouraging sign after sitting out games against John Brown and Gardner Webb. He didn’t look particularly spry, but he continues to be Baylor’s most vocal and intelligent defender. Hopefully he can build off these 9 minutes.
Something to monitor as Baylor gets into higher-level matchups: the defense is still trying to keep opponents out of the middle, but they only want to switch 1-4, while the 5 drops down almost to the free throw line defending pick and roles. That counts on the on-ball defender to chase hard over the screen and for Missi and Ojianwuna to stay in front of the driver while also defending against the roll. Can more athletic guard and big combinations put those two in a bind?
After a grueling start to the season, the Bears get a well-deserved seven-day break before they travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to face Oregon State in the NIT Season Tip-Off on November 22nd. The Bears will be game one at 6pm before Florida and Pittsburg square off. The winners will play at 4:30pm Saturday. The third place game will tip at 2pm. While the Beavers barely crack the top 200 of KenPom, both Florida and Pittsburg are top 50 KenPom teams as of this writing. Whichever team Baylor faces on Saturday, it will be another good neutral-site game in a loaded non-conference schedule this season.
But before we get out of here, we just need to celebrate the journey for Austin Sacks, who scored his first career points tonight on a made three after three years in the program.
Nunn’s reaction to the shot: “The happiest.” Seems like that’s how everyone felt in the locker room.
“We called the play on the bench for him, and he knocked it down,” Walter said. “We had coach change the play,” Nunn added.
Chalk another one up for JOY.