By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter
No. 18 Baylor men’s basketball started off a loaded December at the Ferrell Center with a 78-46 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
After over a week off, the Bears got back into the final stretch of non-conference play with their best defensive performance so far. Senior guard Devonte Bandoo said it was necessary to get back in the swing of things before the big matchup against Arizona Saturday.
“Just getting the rust off,” Bandoo said. “You know, I’m sure all of us had a big Thanksgiving dinner. You know, we’re still trying to get that off of us. It’s gonna take time.”
The Bears held a 38-21 lead at the half thanks to a scorching hot start. Leading by 19 with 7:33 left in the half, Baylor took their foot off the pedal as its offense stalled. The home team scored just 10 more points over the final seven minutes, while the Hawks racked up 11 in the same span.
Sophomore guards Jared Butler and Matthew Mayer were the only Bears with more than five points in the first frame, scoring 14 and 10, respectively. Butler also had two assists while Mayer grabbed three rebounds in his eight minutes. Head coach Scott Drew said Butler has been on fire start the season.
“Jared’s somebody that, offensively, he’s really excelled,” Drew said. “And I know the defensive part, the rebounding part, we’re constantly working on helping him become elite on both ends. But offensively, he’s really been shooting the ball well.”
The Baylor bigs noticeably struggled on offense in the first 20. Senior Freddie Gillespie posted zero points, six rebounds and three turnovers in his 13 minutes. He did affect the game on the defensive end, blocking four shots and grabbing a steal as well. Junior Mark Vital shot 0-3 from the field and 0-3 from the line while notching two fouls and a turnover.
The second half was much of the same as Baylor again outscored the Hawks by 15. Bandoo shined in the second half, making 5-8 shots for 12 points along with four boards, an assist and a steal. After the win, Drew said Bandoo really stood out off the bench after the break.
“[In the] second half, he got in a much better rhythm,” Drew said. “I thought there were a couple more assists he could have had, people missed layups or got fouled. It was good to have him back in rhythm.”
The Bears ended with four players in double figures, including Butler (20), Bandoo (14), Mayer (12) and junior guard Macio Teague (10). Gillespie led the game with 13 rebounds while Teague finished with a game-high five assists.
Baylor will look to continue their five-game win streak at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Ferrell Center with a top-20 matchup against Arizona. The No. 12 team in the country brings with them highly-touted prospect Nico Mannion who will match up with Baylor’s guards. The game will air on ESPNU and it can be streamed on the ESPN app.