By: Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
The Baylor men’s basketball team, as part of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, welcomed the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks to the Ferrell Center on Tuesday as the Bears won their first top-five team in the past 105 years. The two schools played in Eugene, Ore., last season, a game Oregon won 74-67. Oregon won 74-67. However, the Ducks were without All-American junior forward Dillon Brooks in this matchup due to recent foot surgery. His absence, as well as an inspired Baylor team looking for a marquee win early in the season, helped guide the Bears to a 66-49 victory over Oregon.
“Oregon is going to win a lot of games. This is a win that helps you all year long,” head coach Scott Drew said. “This win helps people know Baylor still has a pretty good team, and now we have to deal with handling success, and that’s harder than being disrespected, but we’ll take the win though.”
Baylor controlled the tempo early on, as its 1-2-2 press and zone defense slowed down the Ducks’ offense early. The defense led to five early turnovers and forced the Ducks into just two of 13 three-point shooting early on in the first half. The size of junior forwards Jo Lual-Acuil and Johnathan Motley, who sat out Friday’s win over Oral Roberts University, made it extremely difficult for Oregon’s guards to penetrate and get good looks at the basket. Motley and the Bears held the Ducks to 32.8 shooting percentage.
“This is the highest-ranked team we’ve had at the Ferrell,” Lual-Acuil said. “This is what you really live for. If you’re not going to be excited about that, maybe you should be doing different things. They were coming into our house, and you just try to protect our home court, so whoever comes here, we have to give them a fight.”
On the offensive end, it was junior guard Manu Lecomte who carried the scoring load early on, netting 13 early points, including three three-pointers. Lecomte led all scorers with 18 points and seven assists.
After Oregon trimmed Baylor’s 11-point advantage down to four, the Bears used a late 6-0 run, including a three-pointer by sophomore guard Jake Lindsay at the buzzer to give Baylor a 33-23 lead at halftime.
The Ducks came out of the intermission more aggressive in attacking the basket and trimmed the Bears’ lead to a single point.
“Good teams are always going to make runs,” Drew said. “But I thought we moved the ball and rebounded well and got good looks, which is something we didn’t do well up at their place.”
However, Baylor responded with a run of its own and regain control of the game with its defensive pressure and rebounding advantage in the post.
After a poor-shooting first half, Motley began to find his stroke down the stretch – hitting several short jumpers as well as two emphatic dunks, which kept the Bears in control and the home crowd on its feet. Motley finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
Whenever the Baylor offense looked stagnant and needed a basket, it was Lecomte who answered the call. His quickness and ability to penetrate the lane gave the Duck defenders fits all night and led to scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Ultimately, the combination of the aggressive Baylor zone and the absence of Brooks wore the Ducks down over the course of the game, especially in the second half. Oregon failed to establish anyone who could consistently knock down the three-pointers and force the Bears to stretch the zone. As a result, Baylor packed the paint and forced the Ducks’ guards to penetrate the small gaps of the defense and either take contested jumpers or drive into the bigs, who finished with nine blocks.
Baylor also controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Ducks 41-30 and 14-12 on the offensive glass, which led to 15-4 advantage on second-chance points.
Oregon was led by graduate guard Dylean Ennis, who finished with 16 points. Senior forward Chris Boucher added 12 points for the Ducks.
With the victory, Baylor improves to 2-0 and will enjoy it for a little while before it hosts Florida Gulf Coast at 7 p.m. Friday at the Ferrell Center.
“We get to celebrate the win for a couple of hours, and then we need to get ready for the next one,” Motley said.