By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
Captained by junior guard Jayden Nunn’s 25 points on a near-perfect shooting night, No. 15 Baylor men’s basketball rolled past Missouri-Kansas City 99-61 Tuesday night in the Ferrell Center.
Head coach Scott Drew and the Bears (4-0) went into the midweek matchup against the Roos (2-1) looking to establish a rhythm and find comfort on the court. Nunn said the team was able to find that.
“I’m learning about our toughness and how we face adversity,” Nunn said. “We didn’t complain, we just came out and played. We didn’t complain in practice, we still competed. I’d just like to thank them for that.”
Nunn went 8 for 9 from the floor, hitting four of his five 3-point attempts en route to 25 points as well as four assists. Freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter also lit up the scoreboard with 23 points, going 6 of 11 from the field with four made 3-pointers. The two guards were also a combined 12 of 12 from the free-throw line.
“I’ll tell you what, when Jayden gets going he’s really hard to keep in front of and he’s one of the best guards we’ve had [at] getting to the free-throw line,” Drew said. “When he’s making shots, he’s that much harder to guard.”
In addition to Nunn and Walter, two other Bears hit double figures. Senior guard RayJ Dennis shot 5 of 7 overall for 11 points and led the team with eight assists, while senior forward Jalen Bridges scored 12 points and led the team defensively with a pair of blocks.
Missouri-Kansas City opened the contest with its only lead of the game at 3-2, but the Bears went on a 7-0 run in less than a minute to establish a cushion that only expanded.
With 13 minutes still on the clock in the first half, Nunn scored 14 straight points for the Bears, and the lead kept increasing.
Going into the locker room leading 51-33 after the first 20 minutes, Nunn (19) and Walter (15) combined for 34 points, more than the Roos had as a unit in the first half. Nunn came away with three and-one buckets on the night, while Walter converted a couple of four-point plays.
“I think I got my first four-point play last year,” Walter said. “I guess in this game, they just kept closing out hard. I like to sell it, so I just fell, and they were going in today.”
Baylor spread the ball around in the second half, with 10 different players finding the scoreboard. In addition, the team stayed tough defensively and outscored the visitors 48-28 in the final half.
The loudest cheer came for senior forward Austin Sacks, who found his first points as a Bear with just under two minutes left in the game. Sacks, a walk-on, took a pass off the inbound and rattled a deep 3-pointer home. Sacks’ bucket sent the Ferrell Center into a frenzy, and that led to the Bears taking the 99-61 win.
“The biggest highlight was Austin Sacks, after three years, finally got a bucket,” Drew said. “He got a cold shower in the locker room, and it was really exciting to see the guys be excited for him.”
The Bears get a weeklong break before they’re back in action next Wednesday for the NIT Season Tip-off, starting with a game against Oregon State (2-0). Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.