By Shehan Jeyarajah
Baylor basketball opened its season last Friday night in the 2013 Bucks and Boots Showcase at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Bears played a 2013 NCAA Tournament team in the Colorado Buffaloes for a rematch of an early-season matchup last season.
Baylor led from start to finish in a 72-60 win over Colorado.
The Bears held Colorado to only 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 10.5 percent from three. In the first half, Colorado scored 22 points on 21.2 percent from the field. The Buffs missed their first nine three-pointers, and didn’t hit one until 11:57 left in the second half. In its win last season, CU shot 40 percent from three.
“Our defensive field goal percentage was outstanding,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “Anytime you can hold a top 30 team to that kind of field goal percentage, you have to be happy as a coach. Playing quality opponents helps you expose problem areas quicker.”
Despite the success on defense, Baylor struggled allowing offensive rebounds. The Bears allowed Colorado to grab 18 offensive rebounds on 44 missed shots, or on 40.9 percent of missed shots. The Buffaloes turned the rebounds into 18-second chance points.
Junior college transfer point guard Kenny Chery led Baylor in the convincing victory. After starting 0-for-3 from the field, all three-pointers, Chery finished the night 5-for-11 with 14 points. He also contributed with four assists and four rebounds in his first Division I start.
Senior power forward Cory Jefferson had his first double-double of the young season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in only 25 minutes thanks to foul trouble. Senior guards Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin combined for seven threes on 58.3 shooting from beyond the arc.
For Colorado, sophomore forward Josh Scott finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Scott’s eight free throw attempts were second most in the game, and were caused by his activity inside. NBA prospect Spencer Dinwiddie was held to only 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting.
Baylor plays its home opener on Tuesday against SEC opponent South Carolina. Former Kansas State coach Frank Martin coaches the Gamecocks. Martin joined the South Carolina coaching staff after three straight runs with Kansas State to the NCAA Third Round or better.
“Frank Martin always has physical guys,” Franklin said. “They run a lot of plays where their guards curl over the middle so we just have to defend the elbow pretty well. They like to offensive rebound, their guards get in transition and get to the basket. They’ve got guys who can knock down an open shot. We have to be strong with the ball and try to get you to turn the ball over. We have to be strong with the ball.”
South Carolina is coming off of a 14-18 season, including 4-14 in the SEC in Martin’s first season. In its first game against Longwood, transfer guard Tyrone Johnson put up a career-high 18 points in his South Carolina debut on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas had eight points and 14 rebounds for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina returns its leading scorer in senior guard Brenton Williams. Williams averaged 11.0 points per game on 44.1 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from three last season. In their first game, Williams had 14 points in South Carolina’s first game.
To succeed, Baylor should look to take advantage of its size. The Gamecocks’ biggest starter is 6-foot-9, 215- pound freshman Demetrius Henry. The Bears start two players taller than Henry in Jefferson and sophomore center Isaiah Austin. Freshman forward Ish Wainright’s 245-pound frame is also bigger than any player on South Carolina.
Baylor basketball will open its home schedule at 2 p.m. against the Gamecocks at the Ferrell Center. The game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN as part of its sixth annual 24-hour Tip-off Marathon.