Launch successful, Baylor opens season with high-flying win

The No. 18 Baylor men’s basketball team earned its first victory of the season after a highlight-ridden performance against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 99-77. Junior forward Cory Jefferson led the way for the Bears with 26 points, 18 of which were from dunks, and 13 rebounds.

“We had tremendous amounts of respect for Lehigh coming in with 27 wins last year and their top four scorers back,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We were prepared for a good team and I think our players showed they were ready to play.”

Baylor started the game down 0-2 after being issued a technical foul for dunking during restricted time while warming up. Lehigh senior guard C.J. McCollum made both free throws before the tipoff.

The Bears started the game playing high-energy man-to-man defense. Senior guard A.J. Walton began the game guarding McCollum. McCollum recorded seven quick points, but Walton was able to draw a charge and force him to turn the ball over.

McCollum finished the game with 36 points and eight rebounds despite every defensive look that Baylor threw at him.

“Deuce Bello has good length and pretty good lateral quickness,” McCollum said. “Walton is more of a physical guy and presses up against you. They complement the Baylor team well, two different types of defenders, but both very effective”

This defensive pressure gave Lehigh a lot of problems. For much of the first half, the Mountain Hawks struggled to find good shots. Lehigh junior guard Mackey McKnight was able to create for himself on a few fast breaks to help get the Mountain Hawks back in the game.

The teams went into halftime with the Bears leading 51-41. A big part of Baylor’s lead was its play from its big men, Jefferson and freshman center Isaiah Austin. The duo combined for 36 points on 15-of-17 shooting and 10 rebounds by halftime.

Baylor started the second half by expanding their 10-point lead to 16. Senior point guard Pierre Jackson was able to find Austin around the basket multiple times. Jackson finished with 14 points and 12 assists, and it was his penetration that created so much of the scoring inside.

“It’s great,” Jefferson said. “I’m pretty sure most of my dunks were from passes from [Jackson] or other guards. I really credit everything to them. They found me whenever I was open whether it was a lob or just a pass for me to finish the dunk. I think them for that. I told them after every pass they gave me I told them thank you.”

About four minutes into the second half, Austin scored his 22nd point, but rolled his ankle on the way to the ground. Isaiah was helped off the court and went into the locker room. He returned to sit on the bench, but did not play after that.

Many of Baylor’s other freshmen saw the floor in the second half. Freshman Forward Taurean Prince played 11 minutes in the second half and scored eight points on three-of-four shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds.

“I just wanted to get everybody’s feet wet,” Jackson said. “Everybody was kind of nervous and stuff, and I just tried to get them their shots to get their nerves out. And they were making them. “

The Bears will next take on Jackson State at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center.