By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
No. 9 Baylor men’s basketball advanced to 3-0 on the season, as they cruised to a 92-47 victory over the University of Central Arkansas Wednesday night in the Ferrell Center. It was the 16th consecutive home win for the Bears, a Ferrell Center record. Sophomore guard LJ Cryer led the way for the Bears offensively, putting up 20 points on 60% shooting, also recording six assists. He gained assistance from freshman forward Kendall Brown who stayed hot, scoring 19 and grabbing five rebounds. Senior guard James Akinjo also had a solid outing, notching a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists to go along with six boards and four steals.
Cryer has started the season strong, averaging 17.7 points per game on 53% three-point shooting and 62% from the field. He said while he is in a good rhythm offensively, his recent scoring numbers can be accredited to his teammates. He said they are the ones who give him great looks to put the ball in the basket.
“I’m feeling really good right now, but I give all the credit to my teammates for finding me when I’m getting out wide and running in transition,” Cryer said. “Those guys look for me whenever I’m going.”
The tell-of-the-tale was Baylor’s defense, which forced 29 turnovers — 21 of those being steals — and tied a program record. The Bears also protected the paint with eight blocks and limited UCA to 31% from the floor and 14% from three.
Brown said the team tries to bring this defensive pressure in every matchup. He said the team’s goal is to speed opponents up and get them out of control, in order to capitalize off their mistakes.
“I say overall, it doesn’t matter who we play, we’re always trying to lock in defensively and to be aggressive,” Brown said. “Our motto is to speed them up and have them turn it over, and that’s what we did.”
The Bears jumped out to a 43-20 halftime lead, already forcing 17 turnovers, 14 being steals, and never slowed down. Under 10 minutes into the second period of action, the Bears had extended their lead to 74-34, and controlled the rest of the game to attain the 45-point victory.
Brown showcased his athleticism, as he punched in another alley-oop attempt tonight. He has been doing this every game, and head coach Scott Drew said they wanted to test his vertical with more lob attempts.
“We wanted to see how high Kendall [Brown] could get,” Drew said. “We didn’t know if he could get to the top of the Ferrell [Center], so we were going to test that.”
Late in the second period, there was a confusing moment, as freshman guard Langston Love was subbed into the game. Everyone knew it could not be him, since he suffered a season-ending injury, so after the game, Drew revealed who it truly was.
“That’s his brother, Kijana,” Drew said. “Seriously. He got, I don’t know if it was demoted, because he was a GA and now he’s a walk-on. We traded one Love for another Love. He was here and was going to be a GA, but we needed a little help with our guard injuries. With Adam [Flagler] and LJ and Langston, we needed more guards in practice. He’s getting in better shape getting out there trying to help us.”
Drew said the team will find out how prepared they are for the upcoming scheduled slate with their next match against Stanford University (3-1) on Saturday. He said it will be a great chance for the team to see what they need to improve on heading into their tournament at the Atlantis Bahamas resort.
“This will be great for us to see Saturday where we’re at, and then Atlantis,” Drew said. “You get done with those four games, and you’re going to know exactly what we need to work on, where we need to improve. A lot of times you don’t know until you find out.”
The next matchup for the Bears finds them hosting Stanford at Noon on Saturday in the Ferrell Center.