By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
Baylor men’s basketball defeated Nicholls State 81-54 Friday afternoon at the Ferrell Center behind a dominant performance by freshman forward Matthew Mayer.
The Bears (3-1) got a career-high 18 points from Mayer on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and 3-for-6 from three-point range. Mayer said he finally found a rhythm, which contributed to his breakout game.
“I just try to take what the defense gives me,” Mayer said. “It felt great … I feel like I’m in a good flow now.”
Senior guard Makai Mason, a graduate transfer from Yale, made his Baylor debut after missing the first three games with an ankle injury and scored 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting on three-pointers. Mason said his injury still limited him, but he didn’t try to do too much.
“It was definitely good to get the juices flowing again,” Mason said. “The ankle felt alright. There were definitely times where it hurt a decent amount, but I was able to get through it and the adrenaline helped for sure … I was just trying to make the right play and not do too much.”
Mason wasted no time notching his first points in a Baylor uniform, scoring on a catch-and-shoot three-pointer a minute and a half into the game. Both teams started out sluggishly on offense with Nicholls State holding a 4-3 lead at the 15:54 mark of the first half.
The Colonels switched to a zone defense, and the Bears were able to find the open man on the perimeter. Three-pointers from freshman forward Matthew Mayer and Mason sparked a 10-3 run to give Baylor a 15-9 lead with 11:42 remaining in the first half.
Mayer continued to leave his mark on the game, draining another three-pointer and coming up with a huge block in transition. After missing a free throw, Mayer got the offensive rebound and pulled up for a mid-range jumper to give him 11 points on the day. The Bears led 27-15 at the 7:14 mark of the first half.
Three-pointers from Mason and senior guard King McClure helped extend the Bears’ lead to 37-21 at halftime.
Junior guard Devonte Bandoo sparked an early second-half run for the Bears. Bandoo scored on a three-pointer and slammed home a dunk in transition after stealing the ball away to give Baylor a 48-25 lead at the 15:41 mark of the second half.
The Bears held the Colonels scoreless for six and a half minutes and Mayer continued to showcase his offensive arsenal. The 6-foot-9 forward scored on back-to-back pull-up jumpers to give Baylor a 69-33 lead with 7:25 remaining.
Freshman guard Jared Buter led the offense in the final minutes, scoring five points as the Bears sealed the 81-54 win.
The Bears held the Colonels to 33 percent shooting from the field and 18 percent from three. Baylor head coach Scott Drew said the biggest improvement he’s seen is the team’s defense.
“We’re getting better,” Drew said. “We’re doing a better job of identifying scouting reports, taking away guys that can shoot and guys that are drivers. Each game we’ve improved. I thought the first 35 minutes were really good.”
Baylor will face Ole Miss at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 23 in Niceville, Fla., as a part of the Emerald Coast Classic.