By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor men’s basketball extended the nation’s second longest win streak to eight games, and the Bears moved to 3-0 on the season with a 87-68 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor got off to a slow start in the first half, missing four straight shots to start the game. ULL jumped out to a 9-3 lead over Baylor with 14:50 left in the first half. The Bears would then go on a 13-2 run over the next five minutes to take a 16-11 lead after a three-pointer by junior point guard Kenny Chery. After cutting the lead to 16-15, ULL would never get within more than three points.
Baylor’s defense was key in the first half. The Bears held ULL to 30 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the three-point line. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin had five blocks in the first half alone. Baylor shot 50 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three in the first half, capped off by a three-pointer with five seconds left by senior guard Gary Franklin to take a 33-22 lead into the locker room.
Baylor’s momentum carried over to the start of the second half. Less than 90 seconds into the half, senior power forward Cory Jefferson had a SportsCenter Top 10-worthy dunk. ULL would fight back to push the deficit down to 43-38 behind a jumper by junior guard Elfrid Payton, but Baylor would pull away from there. The Bears ended the game on an 11-2 run, including a dunk by sophomore forward Rico Gathers and an alley-oop by Jefferson.
Senior guard Brady Heslip took over in the second half. He finished with 14 points in the final half on 3-for-5 shooting and 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Chery added 15 points on five-for-seven shooting in the half.
Chery played his best game as a Bear so far. He finished with 20 points, four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers on 7-for-10 from the field, 2-for-2 from three and 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable compared to my first few games,” Chery said. “The first few games were about adjusting to this level of basketball. I’m starting to feel more comfortable with all the weapons on this team.”
Austin added eight blocks on the day. He was part of a 12-block effort for Baylor.
“I was talking to my coaches, and they said on a lot of my block attempts, I’m swiping down,” Austin said. “I made an effort to play tall. When we’re sitting in our zone, it makes my job that much easier. I just have to stay tall.”
Jefferson posted the game’s only double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks on five-for-eight shooting from the field. Senior guard Brady Heslip added 19 points off the bench.
“We told our guys that if you drive, you’ve got to shoot mid-range jumpers because they’re going to block shots,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said. “They had 12 blocked shots on the day. We played right into their hands.”
Baylor held ULL to 34.3 percent from the field for the game, including 32 percent from the three-point line on 25 attempts. The Bears also addressed their own free throw woes. After shooting 8-for-14 from the free throw line in the first half, Baylor shot 20-for-22 in the second half and finished shooting a respectable 77.8 percent from the line.
No. 23 Baylor basketball will look to continue its winning streak at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Charleston Southern at the Ferrell Center.