By Matt Larsen
At 3-3 in the Big 12 (13-6 overall), the Bears find themselves in the thick of conference play and searching for the ignition as they hope to not just keep afloat, but take control of a season approaching its prime.
“It’s the grind of the Big 12,” head coach Scott Drew said. “You can’t get too high or too low because you’re on to the next game. I know last year we were 4-4 and then put together a great string. So there are a lot of games left to be played.”
Baylor comes off a 69-61 loss to Kansas State (14-7, 2-4) in Manhattan, in which they came back after putting up just 18 points in the first half.
Drew knows his squad needs to start better in the coming games.
“At home you can definitely come back easier after a slow start,” he said. “On the road it’s very tough to come back. You definitely want to get the games off to a better start than we have done.”
Drew made a lineup switch two games ago that he hopes will provide one aspect of the ignition the Bears need to put a series of wins together.
Junior forward Quincy Acy had started all 16 games for the Bears prior to the Oklahoma State game, but Drew gave fellow junior J’mison Morgan the start as the big man the last two games.
“The biggest thing we like about Bo [Morgan] is that he did a good job of clogging up that middle,” Drew said. “We were hoping to just not give them as many easy baskets. When you are 6-foot-10, 250 pounds and block shots, he is able to do some of that. As far as rebounding and scoring we would like to get a little more from him, but he is a very good defender.”
Where Morgan has room to improve on the offensive end, his counterpart coming off the bench fits the job description.
“Whenever [Acy] plays we want him to play with that energy,” Drew said. “He hasn’t tried to pace himself the last two games. He has come in and given all he had. We like where Quincy is at right now.”
In his two games coming off the bench, Acy’s points, rebounds and blocks have all gone up.
He led his team with 14 in the Kansas State game.
“It’s been a good move so far,” Acy said. “Before games I get pretty hyped and starting out, that would be a lot of the reason I get fouls so quick. So coming off the bench gives me time to settle back down a little bit.”
Teammate freshman Perry Jones III couldn’t agree more.
“Him being so fresh makes him unstoppable,” Jones said.
Acy has not been the only fire that the Bears will continue to look to as the conference season hits full stride.
Freshman guard Stargell Love notched 11 points against the Wildcats coming off the bench in relief of foul-plagued sophomore AJ Walton. Walton also had five turnovers.
“AJ is more of a physical guard, but Stargell came in and he gave us a spark off the bench,” Acy said. “That’s good for games coming. If AJ gets in foul trouble or anything happens, [Love] can provide some major minutes.”
To right the offensive issues against Kansas State, Drew knows he will not only need sparks off the bench but also more looks for Jones III, his second leading scorer on the season.
Though he managed 11 points, Jones III was held to just five shots from the floor against the Wildcats.
Jones III and Acy have found a connection, however, that both believe will result in opportunities, buckets and just maybe the ignition their team is looking for.
“I like to get looked at when I’m posting up strong,” Acy said. “Post to post I know how it feels. Every time we see one another, we look for that feed. We do a good job of finding each other.”