By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
No. 9 Baylor cut down Stanford University to remain undefeated at 4-0. Despite a back-and-forth first half, Baylor ran away with the game behind their crushing defense to hand Stanford its second loss of the season 86-48.
Baylor has won 17 straight home games and are 29-1 at home dating back to last season. Their defense once again led the way as they forced 22 turnovers leading to 28 points off turnovers and 25 fast break points. Baylor became the first team to hold Stanford under 50 in almost three years. Their 40 points in the paint helped propel the Bears in their blowout win. Head coach Scott Drew said things don’t come easy in games like this.
“The first half, that’s more typical of a Big 12 game,” Drew said. “You’re not coming down in transition and just getting a bunch of dunks. You have to work for stuff. We did a great job in the second half of wearing them down and picking up our intensity.”
Senior guard James Akinjo had a solid all around outing with his second straight double-double. He finished with 11 points and 11 assists as well as four steals. Akinjo said he has always been able to pass well but is now getting more of an opportunity to show it off.
“It’s an ability I’ve always had,” Akinjo said. “This year, the players that I’m playing with, I’m able to showcase it more. I love playing fast and getting my teammates involved.”
Sophomore guard LJ Cryer led the Bears with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting with help from freshman forward Kendall Brown who followed with 15 points, missing only two shots. Senior forward Matthew Mayer had an off night as he shot 1-7 and 0-4 from three to finish with just four points.
In the first half, the game was a tight contest as neither team pulled away early on. Multiple buckets from Cryer and Akinjo helped the Bears keep a small lead and momentum on their side. Brown went 3-3 including two three pointers to finish the half with 8 points.
At the half Cryer led the team in points with 10. However, Akinjo controlled the Bears’ offense as he finished the half with six points and six assists and was the primary ball handler. Akinjo also closed out the half with a high floater as time wound down to help the Bears go up 34-28 at the break.
In the second half Baylor kept up their defensive hold on the game. Baylor forced seven Stanford turnovers and a five-minute scoring drought early in the half to expand on their lead with a 11-point run. This was only the start for Baylor as they continued to suffocate Stanford as a six-minute 19-2 run forced a Stanford timeout at 53-31. The Bears got a stop on seemingly every Stanford offensive possession, as it took over 10 minutes into the second half for Stanford to hit its first field goal. Drew praised his team for the defense they played in the second half.
“To hold them to 29% and over 10 minutes without a field goal,” Drew said. “You don’t get that every single night even if you’re playing great defense, sometimes the ball just goes in. I really credit our guys for cranking that up defensively.”
With less than six minutes left in the game, the Bears didn’t let off the gas. After a steal from Akinjo, four of the five Bears on the court touched the ball on the way to an and-one finish for the Bears pushing the lead to 35. The Bears never stopped applying pressure as they strolled to a blowout win.
The Bears shot 60% in the second half including 40% from beyond the arc. They also had 12 steals in the half and shut down the Stanford offense. Cryer said their defense was a big focus in the second half.
“We just all had to come together in the second half and lock in,” Cryer said. “On the defensive end put together multiple stops in order to make the lead grow. In the first half we didn’t get multiple stops in a row. We’d get a stop then let them score, then get a stop then let them score. Getting consecutive stops helped us go on a big run.”
Baylor returns to action on Wednesday to take on Arizona State University at 6:30 p.m. in Paradise Island, Bahamas for the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.