Baylor basketball continues to establish itself as a team to be reckoned with. After a big second half on Tuesday that saw Baylor erase an 8-point deficit in beating VCU, the Bears relied on another big second half, outscoring Michigan State 43-25, en route to a 73-58 win over the Spartans today in Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Bears were led by junior forward Jonathan Motley who scored 26 points, with 20 of those coming in the first half.
“We have some depth and have some different options, you can keep them fresh. At different times, they all can get on a roll. They complement one another. It stems from our leader Ishmail Wainwright,” said head coach Scott Drew. “He is our only senior on the team. He is such an unselfish player…keeps everyone together and I think that trickles down to everyone else.”
Michigan State found its rhythm early, relying heavily on three point shooting. The Spartans hit six first half three point field goals, including two from sophomore guard Matt McQuaid, who was two of three from downtown in the first 20 minutes.
Motley, established himself early with a variety of offensive moves. He made strong drives to the basket, showed off his touch around the rim, and even showed his range, as he stepped out and hit his only three point attempt of the game.
“We are bigger than them in the paint and think we are tougher so we used that to our advantage,” Motley said.
In the second half, head coach Scott Drew wanted Baylor to be more balanced on the offensive end. That was exactly what the Bears were able to do. Junior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Despite just a three for 10 shooting performance, junior guard Manu Lecomte contributed eight points and eight assists. Junior guard Al Freeman slashed through the Spartan defenders and was able to finish at the rim, finishing with 9 points. Senior guard Ishmael Wainwright and junior forward Terry Maston both finished with 7 points, most of which came in the second half.
“We were able to get stops and get some transition buckets. When we are able to get in transition and get some easy ones, that loosens things up. In the first half, they were getting transition baskets and we weren’t getting back. I thought first when you score, it is easier to get back,” Drew said. “Second of all, you get stops and transitions, it easier to score. It all kind of works together.”
Baylor’s defense continues to be a key weapon for the Bears, as they won the turnover battle yet again, taking advantage of 14 Spartan turnovers and converting them into 19 points. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo’s teams are historically known for their physicality and their rebounding ability. In both cases, the Bears beat Michigan State at its own game, outrebounding the Spartans 36-29 and scoring 44 points in the paint compared to 22 for Michigan State.
The Spartans were led by freshman guard Miles Bridges, who finished with 15 points.
Michigan State, who drops to 3-3 on the year, will play Wichita State in the 3rd place game. That game will be aired on ESPN or ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Friday.
Baylor improves to 5-0 and advances to the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The Bears will take on tenth-ranked Louisville in the championship game at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The game will be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.