By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
No. 5 Baylor men’s basketball kicked off the season with a 117-53 victory over Mississippi Valley State University Monday morning in the Ferrell Center. The Bears are now 18-2 in season openers under head coach Scott Drew, and their 64-point win is third largest in program history.
“[We] got better the more we played,” Drew said. “[There were] a lot of nerves with basically half the team that had never put on the jersey. Even when you do scrimmages, it’s not the game, it’s not the fans. When you have family watching, it’s a whole ‘nother level. I couldn’t be more pleased with the start.”
The Bears had six players in double-digits, 27 team assists and forced 25 turnovers on the defensive end. Senior guard Adam Flagler led all scorers with 21 points and piled in eight assists as well. Following him was junior guard LJ Cryer and redshirt-senior guard Dale Bonner. Cryer finished with 16 points and Bonner put up 14 — a career-high in the green and gold — to go along with six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
In their Baylor debuts, freshmen guard Keyonte George and redshirt freshman guard Langston Love finished with 13 points apiece. George pitched in seven assists and six rebounds while Love grabbed eight rebounds. Junior forward Jalen Bridges, a transfer from West Virginia University, also scored 13 points in his green and gold debut.
“There’s no ceiling, we have so many guys that can do so many things on the court,” Flagler said. “We pride ourselves on defense, and that was the biggest thing holding them to as little as possible with the points and just compete at a high level having the same old boring habits.”
At the game’s start, both teams seemed to be settling in and things were relatively calm — until they weren’t. Flagler hit a three, Cryer the same, then Flagler connected from deep and Cryer followed suit with another to spark a 24-0 run for the Bears. This scoring punch dictated the flow of the rest of the game, where Baylor remained in the driver seat for good. The defensive side was just as strong, as Mississippi Valley converted on just one field goal attempt in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
At the break, Baylor led 61-21 after ending the half on a 45-11 run. The Bears shot 55.9% from the field and 43.8% from beyond the arc. Defensively, they forced 14 turnovers which led to 23 points off of turnovers. Flagler led all scorers at the half with 12 to go along with five assists. Bridges followed with 11 and Bonner had 10.
Baylor came into the second half a little slow, going two minutes without a score early on. However, their defense remained elite, and they were getting a hand on every 50-50 ball and forcing turnovers left and right. Around midway through the second, the Bears put their foot back on the gas. After starting 1-8 from the floor, George caught fire hitting three-consecutive shots including a deep three late in the shot clock to cap off a 16-0 Baylor run. The Bears would continue rolling on their way to start the new season 1-0.
Baylor will stick around for another home contest, this time against Norfolk State University on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.