By Cody Soto
Senior forward Royce O’Neale had an impactful game on both sides of the ball to help Baylor men’s basketball roll to a 67-51 win over in-state opponent Stephen F. Austin Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
“We knew how dangerous they were, so we were a bit concerned,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We contested a lot of shots, and our defense has been very good. I’m really pleased with that, and I hope that continues.”
O’Neale had 19 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in the win for Baylor (4-0). His 14 rebounds was a career high for the Killeen native, giving him his ninth career double-double.
“[Royce O’Neale] stands for everything that’s good about college basketball in terms of effort,” Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood said. “He has had such a big impact on all of Baylor’s games. When you find passion and energy, those make a great player. That’s very much the case with O’Neale.”
Junior forward Taurean Prince added 15 points and four blocks, junior guard Lester Medford contributed 12 points, three assists, and four steals and freshman forward Johnathan Motley had eight points.
Senior guard Kenny Chery had six points and five assists but struggled to control the ball and had six turnovers for the Bears. The Bears shot 43.4 percent, including 46.2 percent from the three-point line.
Baylor dropped six three pointers on the Lumberjacks and limited the team to only 32 rebounds Monday night.
Baylor had a slow start and trailed SFA 4-0 early in the first half. SFA’s Jacob Parker tipped in the first basket and added a jumper to put the Lumberjacks (1-3) in front. The Bears responded with a 12-0 run fueled by O’Neale and Medford.
“We wanted to make them uncomfortable from the beginning,” O’Neale said. “I wanted to create steals or lead an easy offense. That’s what I was trying to create.”
Both teams tied it up at 19-19 with 6:04 left in the first half, but the Bears surged ahead and used a 14-3 run to take 33-22 lead at the half. Junior forward Rico Gathers hit a layup for the final score before the Bears headed into the locker room.
Motley started the second half with four straight points for Baylor, and O’Neale added three to put the Bears up 40-27. With less than 10 minutes to go, Prince and O’Neale dropped buckets to help maintain a double-digit lead. O’Neale continued to make an impact on both sides of the court and added to the defensive success in the game.
“We are going to see teams like SFA down the road, so we want to do what we have to do to win the game,” O’Neale said.
Chery nailed a 3-pointer late in the game, and Medford hit a layup and a free throw to keep the Lumberjacks in the dust. Baylor held control the game and took a 67-51 win in Waco. The win pushes the series lead to 4-2 for Baylor.
“The guys have been very active and have done a great job so far,” Drew said. “So far, what we’ve done defensively is really impressive. It was a great win for us.”
The Bears travel to Las Vegas, Nev. to compete in the Las Vegas Tire Invitational Thursday night against Memphis. Tipoff at 11 p.m. will air on Fox Sports Southwest.