By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
No. 2 Baylor basketball won its season opener 112-82 against Louisiana in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Senior guard MaCio Teague led the way, scoring 21 points and three three-pointers while leading the team with seven rebounds. Junior guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell followed Teague’s lead, both scoring 18 points.
Associate-head coach Jerome Tang said the Bears’ offense excelled because of the team’s selflessness and ability to share the ball.
“The shots went in,” Tang said. “I felt like we took a lot of uncontested shots and that was teammates creating shots for each other. The guys shared the ball and found their teammates.”
Baylor totaled 25 assists in the game, doubling Louisiana’s 12 assists. Mitchell said the team’s many scoring options made sharing the ball easy.
“Anyone can go off any night,” Mitchell said. “We’re gonna share the sugar. We’re gonna have fun.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns kept the game competitive early, trading buckets with the Bears in the first half. Half-way through the first half, Baylor was only leading by one, 23-22, after Mark Vital was assessed a technical foul for taunting. Tang attributed the slow start to rust and the fact that Baylor had not played a game in over seven months.
“The first three minutes of the game, four minutes of the game, you could see the guys really winded,” Tang said. “This was the first time in 266 days they stepped on the court and played against someone else and game speed is so much different than practice.”
However, Baylor went on a quick 15-0 run and never looked back, looking dominant for the rest of the game. Sophomore guard Adam Flagler and freshman guard LJ Cryer served as spark plugs off the bench for the Bears offensively. Flagler totaled 12 points and a team-high seven assists, while Cryer stepped in to score 17 points, hitting five threes in only 14 minutes of action.
Tang was particularly impressed with Cryer’s play, who made his collegiate debut tonight.
“Every day he gets to play against the best guards in America, and there are a lot of days when he does not look like a freshman,” Tang said. “Our team trusts him. He could be the best freshman guard we’ve ever had. He’s going to be an All-Big 12 guy before it’s all said and done.”
Baylor went into the half with a commanding 53-40 lead and continued to pour it on after the break. The Bears shot an impressive 55% from three-point range as the Ragin’ Cajuns were unable to keep up with Baylor’s blistering offense.
While Tang said the offensive performance was good, he was not happy with the Bears on defense.
“When you look at the scoreboard, they scored 82 points. That automatically doesn’t make you a happy camper,” Tang said. “When you look at the stat sheet, they shot 52% from the field. That also does not make me a happy camper.”
Mitchell said the team remains committed to the defensive side of the ball and the Bears will get better as they play more games.
“It wasn’t as good,” Mitchell said. “We haven’t played in a long time so that first wind was pretty hard. We can do somethings to get better. We’ll keep working on it.”
Baylor still managed to force turnovers, which was a trademark of last year’s team. The Bears scored 30 points off of 19 Louisiana turnovers.
A 9-0 run with eight minutes left in the second half put Baylor up 96-65 and sealed the game for the Bears.
Junior forward Flo Thamba and sophomore forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua stepped in to fill the void that last year’s starting center Freddie Gillespie left. The duo performed modestly, with both Thamba and Tchamwa Tchatchoua scoring six points. Tang identified their play in the post as an area the team needs to improve on before its next game against Washington.
“Jonathan and Flo are going to be a work-in-progress throughout the season,” Tang said. “I thought that we didn’t have any rim-protection tonight. We didn’t vertically contest. We didn’t take any charges. We didn’t have blocked shots. We didn’t take away the strong shoulder of the opponent. That’s an area that, especially for tomorrow night because Washington is such a big team, we are going to have to improve.”
Baylor will take on Washington at 5 p.m. Sunday in at T-Mobile Arena. The game will streamed again on FloSports.