By Cody Soto
New faces sparked excitement at the Ferrell Center on Friday night as Baylor men’s basketball rolled to a 80-39 win over McNeese State in the team’s season opener.
Baylor fans saw a glimpse at a new team that returned only two starters from last season’s Sweet 16 team. While seniors Royce O’Neale and Kenny Chery didn’t produce a majority of the points for the Bears, the newcomers stepped up and made a big impression.
Junior forward Deng Deng had an impressive performance during his first game in a Baylor uniform with 16 points and two blocks for Baylor. Deng played 16 minutes, averaging one point per minute on the court, and was 8-for-9 from the field on Friday.
“I can tell you it feels really good,” Deng said. “The first half was a bit tough for me. I got into foul trouble but my teammates said to go play your game. It was a good experience for my first game at this level.”
Junior guard Lester Medford also shined in his first game for the Bears as he recorded 13 points with three three-pointers, including a buzzer beater to give the Bears a 39-17 halftime lead.
“The shots were there and my team did a very good job moving the ball,” Medford said. “We made the extra pass and I knocked them down. Kenny [Chery] and I learn from each other every day and he makes it more comfortable me.”
Freshman forward Johnathan Motley had a strong showing after redshirting last year to add 10 points and four rebounds in the win. Motley gained over 20 pounds since last season after former Baylor players Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin left for the NBA Draft.
The Bears controlled the boards 55-28 and used a 51.7 percent shooting percentage to take their first win of the season.
The Bears limited the Cowboy offense to a 21 percent shooting percentage during the game and only allowed 39 points, the least amount of points allowed against a Division 1 opponent since 1958.
“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.”
Many questions were answered Friday night, but a lot still has to be answered, Drew said.
“It’s a great way to start the season any time you hold a team to 39 points and a 21 field goal percentage,” Drew said. “There were a lot of positives but we have a long way to go and things to work on. Our schedule will show us more after we play South Carolina on the road.”
The Bears will have their first road test this year as they face South Carolina as part of the Tip-Off Marathon on ESPN. Baylor defeated the Gamecocks 66-64 last season.