By Chris Derrett
LaceDarius Dunn scored 24 points, including six 3-pointers, as Baylor built a commanding second half lead to beat Arizona State, 68-54, Thursday night at the Ferrell Center.
Dunn connected when the Bears (6-0) needed it most. After the Sun Devils (3-3) erased a 33-27 halftime deficit with two quick, back-to-back 3-pointers, Dunn hit his own pair of consecutive treys that sparked a 15-5 run.
“It doesn’t take much for a good shooting team like Arizona State to hit a couple threes and tie the game up like they did,” Dunn said. “I just think we did a great job of matching their intensity.”
Later in the second half, with Baylor leading 59-47, Dunn crashed to the floor trying for a rebound and appeared to land on his left arm. He committed a foul in the process, but the 7,083 in attendance were much more concerned with the senior guard’s grimacing as he lay on the floor holding the arm.
Everybody breathed a collective sigh of relief when Dunn checked back into the game two minutes later. He was still holding and shaking his arm, though.
“Lace is a very tough kid. If it’s not broken, he’s playing,” head coach Scott Drew said.
Sophomore A.J. Walton followed Dunn with 13 points and added four steals, and freshman Perry Jones III scored 12 while grabbing eight rebounds. Junior Fred Ellis hit both of his 3-point attempts toward a six-point effort.
Although Baylor never trailed, following Jones III’s dunk that put his team ahead 9-8, Arizona State was able to keep the game close before falling short in the second half. Five of the Sun Devils’ 11 first-half field goals came from 3-pointers, as the Bears seemed to concede numerous wide-open looks.
Despite the shots, Drew was content with his squad’s defensive effort.
“The looks they got might be a little deeper than they normally would get them,” Drew said. “If you can guard for 35 seconds and have them shoot one foot deeper than they’re used to, that makes a difference.”
Arizona State eventually cooled and was 3 of 14 on second-half treys.
Baylor’s other starting forwards, junior Quincy Acy and senior Anthony Jones, struggled to get touches against Arizona State’s zone defense. Acy finished with five points on 1 of 7 from the field, and Jones was 2 of 6 totaling four points. Acy and Jones also combined for 15 rebounds, five being offensive.
With so much emphasis on stopping the posts, containing Dunn became almost impossible for Arizona State.
“The difficult thing about defending Baylor is they have great balance,” Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said. “Their guards are very good players, and Dunn is one of the top two guards in the country.”
Early in the game it appeared Baylor was en route to another low-turnover night. The team stayed turnover-free until the 6:11 mark of the first half, at which it lead 30-18. But five turnovers before the half kept the Bears from expanding the lead and helped the Sun Devils narrow the deficit.
“We’ve been working tons and tons on turnovers in practice. But that all starts with me; I have the ball in my hands 70 percent of the time,” Walton said.