Baylor downs Central Arkansas in season opener

Freshman forward Tristan Clark goes up for a layup against Central Arkansas. Clark finished with 15 points as the Bears won 107-66. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

No. 24 Baylor men’s basketball defeated Central Arkansas 107-66 Friday afternoon at the Ferrell Center in its season opener.

The Bears’ (1-0) offense was lights out in the win, shooting 66 percent from the field and 71 percent from 3-point range, both program records.

Senior point guard Manu Lecomte was a major part of the offensive outburst, going 6-for-8 on 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points.

Lecomte said the team is full of offensive weapons and they flexed their muscles in the win.

“We have a lot of weapons and we showed it today,” Lecomte said. “Inside they can’t stop us and outside we have some good shooters.”

All five starters scored in double figures for the Bears, while only two reached that mark for UCA.

Central Arkansas head coach Russ Pennell said he thinks Baylor has all the pieces to be a great team.

“I was very impressed with Baylor,” Pennell said. “I think the length and strength of this team inside was very impressive. When you get point guard play like they got today I think you have the makings of a very good team.”

Junior guard King McClure grabbed the offensive rebound off a 3-point miss by senior forward Nuni Omot and drove it in for the layup to score the first basket of the season for the Bears.

Baylor fell behind 8-5 after a spot-up 3-pointer from UCA senior guard Jordan Howard, but a layup by senior center Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr. and a 3-pointer by Lecomte gave the Bears a 10-8 lead heading into the first media timeout.

Following the timeout, the Bears switched from a man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone defense and forced an airball on their first defensive possession.

Back-to-back buckets in the post by freshman forward Tristan Clark gave Baylor its biggest lead of the game at 19-12 with 11:34 remaining in the first half.

The Bears made seven of their next eight shots from the floor, starting with a dunk from senior forward Terry Maston and concluding with a corner three from Omot to extend their lead to 35-19 with eight minutes left in the half.

Baylor continued its hot streak from 3-point range as Omot and McClure each knocked down three pointers to make it a 45-25 game at the 3:50 mark of the first half.

Howard drained his second three pointer of the afternoon from deep range to cut the Baylor lead to 51-37, but Clark responded with a jump hook from the left block to give the Bears a 53-37 lead heading into halftime.

At the break, Lecomte led all scorers with 16 points on 4-for-4 shooting from three. Howard had 13 at halftime for UCA, converting on all five of his free throw attempts.

Baylor jumped out to a 7-0 run early in the second half, capped off by a fast break lob from Omot to Clark as the Bears took a 64-39 lead.

UCA offered little resistance on the interior as the Bears continued to pound the ball inside with their post players. Baylor scored eight straight points on post ups from Clark and Lual-Acuil, Jr. to take a 72-45 lead with 14 minutes left in the game.

Maston got going for Baylor in the second half, scoring 10 straight for the Bears including two fadeaway jumpers in the post as Baylor took an 89-55 lead with 7:21 remaining in the game.

The Bears broke the century mark on a layup from freshman forward Mark Vital as the Bears took the win 107-66.

Lual-Acuil, Jr. contributed 17 points and nine rebounds in the win while Clark added 15 points in his Baylor debut.

Clark said he was nervous at the start of the game, but found his rhythm as the game progressed.

“It was definitely first game jitters,” Clark said. “The first couple plays I was a little shaky but I just needed one bucket and after that I just played my game.”

Howard led the way for UCA with 22 points and three 3-pointers.

Baylor continues its home stretch with a matchup against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m. Monday at the Ferrell Center.