By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
No. 24 Baylor men’s basketball opened the Myrtle Beach Invitational by defeating Ohio 76-53 Thursday afternoon. The victory sets up a matchup with the winner of Utah versus Coastal Carolina Friday afternoon.
The Bears came out with a slow start against the Bobcats, as the score was tied at 17 all with 7:52 left in the first half. Baylor then ripped off a 19-6 run to take the 36-23 lead at the break. Sophomore guard Jared Butler led the team in scoring at the half with nine, but junior forward Tristan Clark was close behind with eight points in just nine minutes.
The forward is currently on a minutes restriction after the non-surgical procedure on his knee last week, but senior forward Freddie Gillespie and junior forward Mark Vital filled in admirably, posting a combined 19 points and 17 rebounds on 47 minutes of work.
When Baylor has jumped out to a big lead, they have generally seen those slip away thus far — dropping a 13-point margin to a loss against Washington and letting two double-digit leads slip before pulling out the win against Texas State. Thursday saw a more confident and prepared Baylor squad, not only holding the 13-point halftime lead but extending it to 23 by the end of the game.
Butler led all scorers, finishing with 19, while redshirt junior guard MaCio Teague followed behind with 17 points on 3-5 shooting from deep. Redshirt-sophomore guard Davion Mitchell posted nine points on 4-7 shooting, and senior guard Devonte Bandoo struggled, scoring only four points on 2-9 from the field.
While Baylor’s offense started to click near the end of the second half, the defense shined in the victory. The Bears held their opponents to just 36% shooting and managed to allow only 12 free throws. Baylor also limited momentum swings with solid offensive rebounding, grabbing 17 boards on that end of the court, good for 45%.
Individually, the Bears racked up defensive numbers as well. Butler notched five steals. Gillespie and Vital also earned two steals and two blocks each. Those forced turnovers led to nine points in transition and 22 points overall.
Baylor men’s basketball will be back on the court at 4 p.m. today in Conway, S.C., against either Coastal Carolina or Utah. The second game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational will be aired on ESPN2 and the ESPN app.