By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s basketball is headed to Wichita, Kan. to take on Wichita State at 7 p.m. Saturday for its second road trip of the season. Both squads are coming off wins. Baylor claimed a 63-57 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday and Wichita State defeated Rice 90-61 on Sunday.
Baylor went into halftime down two points to South Dakota, but outscored the Coyotes 36-28 in the second half to secure the win. The defense for the Bears helped carry them to a late 12-0 run to win the game. Baylor also had 12 blocks and held South Dakota to a 34.9 percent field goal percentage throughout the game.
One of the stat lines where the Bears fell just short was in rebounding. The Coyotes out-rebounded the Bears 42-41 which led to 19 second chance points by South Dakota and only nine for Baylor. Head coach Scott Drew said despite the Coyotes poor shooting, the rebounding led to more second chance points that the Bears will have to focus on going into the rest of the season.
“The biggest thing is the defense. We were great with [holding them to] 34 percent,” Drew said. “Eight turnovers was really good. The rebounding is the area that obviously surprised us and normally we were the 23rd best offensive rebounding team coming in percentage wise, they were the 29th best defensive rebounding team. Normally at worst you think you’re even but for them to beat us 19-9, obviously we’ve got to fix that.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears struggled to find a way to get the ball in the net, missing 20 of their first 24 shots from the field. Sophomore forward Tristan Clark went 3-for-5 from the field with six rebounds and six blocks. With the Coyotes double teaming Clark, Drew said he was surprised the team shot so poorly with South Dakota leaving players open on the perimeter.
“I was surprised we struggled with the double team in the post like we did,” Drew said. “People that double Tristan, we’ve normally made them pay. We thought they would double from the beginning. We thought we’d get open threes. We like that and it didn’t turn out that way. Credit their double team affecting us more than we thought. Now it gives us something to work on and get better.”
Senior guard Makai Mason had the third most points on the team with 10 and led the team in assists with five. Mason helped give Baylor the lead on the final run and gave the Bears their largest lead with just over 30 seconds left in the game with a jumper from the lane followed by a corner three and a made free throw. He said despite putting the points on the board, it was actually the defense that helped propel Baylor on a 12-0 run.
“I think just defensively we were pretty active. [We were] able to get rebounds and that helped us get stops,” Mason said. “We were able to get a couple key buckets down the stretch, but it was really the defense that sparked it.”
The defense will have to step up against Wichita State, a team who almost got into the triple digits in its last outing on the court with a field goal shooting percentage of 46.9 percent. The Shockers also managed to get to the line for 30 free throw attempts, making 23, meaning the Bears will have to be careful with foul trouble and keeping them away from easy points.
The second leading scorer in the South Dakota game was sophomore guard Mario Kegler, who made his debut in the game after being suspended for the first six games. Despite a rusty start of missing his first five shots from the field and coming up with air balls on his first three 3-point attempts, Kegler finished with six rebounds and three blocks to go along with 12 points. Now as they head into a tough road game against Wichita State, Kegler said he feels as though the team knows each other well enough to play as a team against anyone they face.
“I feel like we’re ready for any challenge,” Mario said. “It’s about just playing together and just knowing what each other can do on the floor … I feel like we can be in a ball game with anybody.”