By Cody Soto
The Baylor Bears basketball team opened up their 2014-15 season with a big 80-39 win over McNeese State Friday night at the Ferrell Center.
Fans got to see a glimpse of a different looking team from one season ago, and new faces shined for the Bears. Baylor (1-0) finished the night with a 51.7 shooting percentage with 30-of-58 shots.
“It was a great way to start the season, and when you hold a team to 39 points and a 21 percent field goal percentage, there’s a lot of positives out of this game,” head coach Scott Drew said. “It was a great start [to the season] and I’m happy with tonight.”
Junior forward Deng Deng lit up the Ferrell Center with 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting and added three rebounds and two blocks for the Bears.
“The first half was a bit tough for me, and I got in foul trouble early, but my teammates told me to play my game,” Deng said.
Junior guard Lester Medford had 13 points in his debut game, followed by junior forward Rico Gathers with 12. Redshirt freshman Johnathan Motley also added 10 points in his first game.
Senior guard Kenny Chery and senior forward Royce O’Neale struggled with scoring but contributed on other parts of the court.
“Neither one of them shot as well as they would have liked, and we’ve seen them shoot a lot better in practice,” Drew said. “It’s good though when guys you count on and they don’t do well and yet you can still win. Tonight, seeing their leadership of keeping everybody focused definitely showed.”
The Bears dominated the boards and out-rebounded the Cowboys 55-28 to hold them to a 21 percent shooting percentage.
“I give credit to Baylor; they rebounded well and hit their shots, and that was the difference in the game for me,” McNeese State head coach Dave Simmons said. “Baylor has some long wings, so that altered our shots. They’re athletic and long.”
Baylor started hot with a quick jumper by senior guard Kenny Chery to take the first lead of the game. The Bears started the game with a 16-4 run capped off by a basket from sophomore guard Ishmail Wainright.
McNeese State made a layup to keep itself within 10 points of the Bears, but Baylor would not hold up. Medford nailed a big three-point shot to finish the half and gave the Bears a 39-17 lead heading into the locker room.
“We did a very good job at moving the ball, so the shots were there,” Medford said. “We made the extra pass and got to knock down good shots.”
Baylor came out of the half and used a big spark from Deng to go on a 10-3 run coming out of its first timeout. Deng connected with Chery to slam the ball into the basket and fired up the crowd. Deng then scored three more baskets and recorded a block before the Cowboys were forced to call a timeout.
“Kenny [Chery] and I made eye contact and he lobbed me the ball, and it got me really hyped,” Deng said.
Gathers dropped in two free throws and denied a shot at the other end of the court to put the Bears up 62-32 going into a timeout. An in-and-out three-point shot by McNeese State gave the ball right back to Baylor, and the team soared to an 18-6 run to end the game.
Junior forward John Heard recorded his first points of his career with a classic “bank” three-point shot to keep the Bears in front. Junior guard Austin Mills and freshman forward T.J. Maston also saw playing time and added five points collectively.
“Our schedule will show us more after we play South Carolina on the road,” Drew said. “It will definitely be very challenging to play against them.”
Baylor men’s basketball will play their first road game of the season when it faces South Carolina on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN.