By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Sitting at 12-9 with a 2-6 conference record, Baylor men’s basketball hit the road to face Trae Young and the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 30. The Bears desperately needed a win, having lost three games in a row and seven of their last nine.
The Sooners came away with the 98-96 win, but a new offensive threat emerged for Baylor in the loss — senior forward Nuni Omot.
Omot, who had been averaging just six points per game in conference play, put up 23 points, hitting all six of his attempts from three-point range.
Since the trip to Norman, the Bears have rattled off three straight wins with Omot averaging 13.3 points on 40 percent shooting from three off the bench in those games.
Omot began the season in the starting lineup, starting the team’s first 15 games before being replaced by freshman forward Mark Vital.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said Omot has done great job handling his new role as a bench scorer.
“Nobody is excited when their role changes, if you’re a starter going to the bench,” Drew told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “But at the same time it is what it is and how you handle it. He’s done a great job handling it. Nuni has been real critical and real important to our success.”
Omot came to Baylor as a transfer from Indian Hills Community College in St. Paul, Minn. He became eligible for competition in the spring of 2017 with only 1.5 years of eligibility left to play for the Bears.
Omot said sitting out for the 2016fall semester was tough because he knew he could help the team.
“Obviously, it was tough on me because I felt like I could be out there helping the team, although they were doing really well,” Omot said. “I wanted to play, and I love playing.”
Omot played the final 25 games for the Bears as a junior in the 2016-17 season and contributed four points per game on 40 percent shooting from the field.
As a senior, Omot sits at third on the team in scoring at 10.2 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range.
In the Bears’ upset of No. 10 Kansas on Saturday afternoon, Omot poured in 17 points as Baylor picked up its first signature win of the season.
Omot said the players came together amidst their losing streak and decided to play for each other.
“We got together and told ourselves that its going to be a fight but we got to do it for each other,” Omot said. “We’re starting to do it for each other, share the ball and look for everyone.”
The Bears’ improved ball movement has opened up Omot’s shooting ability as the six-feet-nine-inch forward has shot a scorching 12-for-21 from three-point range in the Bears’ last four games.
Omot’s production has correlated with Baylor’s success this season, with the Bears going 8-3 when Omot scores in double figures and 7-7 when he does not.
Baylor will need continued production from Omot down the stretch of the season as the Bears currently sit outside the projected NCAA Tournament field, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Missing out on the NCAA Tournament this year would snap a school-record four straight appearances.