WACO, Texas — The Baylor Bears (9-0, 0-0) notched the 400th win in the Ferrel Center tonight in the arena’s penultimate game, packing the Seton Hall Pirates (5-3, 0-0) away 78-60.
The win cemented the Big 12’s victory in the BIG EAST - Big 12 Battle. Baylor is now 14-4 in challenge games, the best record of any Big 12 team, per Coach Scott Drew.
The Bears demonstrated some true bone fides tonight as the newly minted No. 6 team in the AP Poll, climbing steadily up from the preseason rank of 20.
“Definitely (ahead of schedule) in my mind,” Drew said after the game.
Seton Hall made a push to start the second half and brought the score to 50-47 on great individual shooting from Kadary Richmond and Dre Davis. Baylor answered with two brilliant corner threes by RayJ Dennis (17 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds) and Ja’Kobe Walter (15 pts, 3 asts, 5 rebs), then capped the 8-0 run with a rousing Josh Ojianwuna dunk from the top of the key. The lead was back to 11 as the Pirates struggled to score a field goal for three solid minutes. Baylor’s defense forced Seton Hall to a 1 of 8 stretch as the Bears rebuilt a double-digit lead that would hold the rest of the game.
Following the media timeout at the 8-minute mark, Yves Missi (13 pts, 8 rebs, 1 block, 1 steal) went up and grabbed a physical offensive rebound over two Pirate defenders. His hustle play resulted in a tough finish at the rim by Jayden Nunn (6 pts, 3 asts, 1 blk, 1 stl), Baylor’s 6th straight field goal and the feeling that the game had been just about put away. Seton Hall turned the ball over and committed a flagrant foul in transition. That gave the Bears two more points, a 14-point lead, and possession.
Yet even with the final seconds counting down and an 18-point lead in hand, the Bears were still diving on the floor for the loose ball.
In the end, Baylor won this game on the long ball. They made 6 more threes than Seton Hall. Baylor’s bench also produced, outscoring the Pirates reserves by 10.
Missi continued his upward trajectory tonight, not only in the box score but also with an untold number of shots warded of simply by his presence. Missi’s dunk in the first half is probably underrated by the camera angle on television. That pass was both higher and farther out from the rim than the video suggests. Missi’s catch radius is absolutely insane, and the violence he was able to put on that lob is just one more indication that his athleticism is quite literally off the charts.
Dennis was asked afterwards if it’s possible to throw it too high for Missi.
“That’s funny, because I’ve got a couple of turnovers throwing it too low, so I’m just going to err on the side of throwing it way out of bounds now and just see how high he can go get it.” And did he have any doubts Missi would get up that high? “Honestly, no I didn’t. I threw it and was like, Yves’s probably the only person who can go get that.”
With a weapon like Missi, this Baylor offense is truly something special. Seton Hall surrenders a three attempt on 43% of opponent shot attempts. Baylor, knowing full well the looks would be there, ran a pre-game drill specifically around generating threes off the pass. That paid off huge as the Bears cashed three after three, particularly from the corners, the best threes available. Dennis had some great plays dishing out to the perimeter, but the whole team got involved. Twelve of the team’s 28 makes were assisted. Six Bears tallied at least one assist. The ball was absolutely flying. In the first half, for instance, 14 of Baylor’s points were in the paint and 24 were from three. Two were from the free throw line. That’s 40 of the 42 points coming from the most efficient shots on the floor. Symphonic.
Drew was very please with his team’s execution tonight. “First, you have to have people properly spaced,” he said, “and our guys do a great job spacing rather than chasing the balll and mucking everything up. They trust one another to get the ball to the open guy. When you play unselfish basketball like that, everyone’s gonna get their turn of things. Just cutting and moving, a lot of times people think you hear a play call and it might be for somebody else, but once there’s help, it’s really for everybody, and ur guys do a great job of allowing the offense to put us in an advantage.”
The Bears will have a little break now for finals before they head up to Detroit to face a faltering Michigan State Spartans team. Then it’s 4 days until they face Duke in New York. If Baylor can make it through those two opponents, they’re well set to be 12-0 going into the Foster Pavilion on January 2nd against Cornell.
It’s good to be a Baylor Bear.