Ja’Kobe Walter silences Frogs as No. 15 Baylor men’s basketball tops TCU 62-54

Freshman guard Ja'Kobe Walter (4) has scored in double figures in six straight games following a three-game stretch without scoring more than eight points. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

After splashing a corner 3-pointer six minutes into the second half and giving No. 15 Baylor men’s basketball its first double-digit lead of the game, freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter blew a kiss toward the TCU student section.

From there, it was all Bears as they snapped a two-game losing streak by taking down the Horned Frogs 62-54 on Monday night at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.

“They were chanting ‘air ball’ after I missed, obviously I air-balled,” Walter said. “But next one I’m still shooting. Knocked it down, I had to shut them up, so I blew them a kiss.”

Following a triple-overtime loss to the Horned Frogs in Waco on Jan. 28, head coach Scott Drew and Baylor (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) claimed possession of fourth place in the Big 12 with Monday’s win over TCU (19-9, 8-7).

“Normally every game comes down to one possession, and we were blessed defensively to contest some shots,” Drew said. “They missed some shots. Coach [Jamie] Dixon is a great coach; they had some good looks. 5 for 19 [shooting from deep] is not a typical outing by them. But I’d like to credit our defense a little bit too, and I thought we did a good job of making things difficult for [them] some of the time.

“The big thing is, when you play TCU, you have to do a good job on the glass and we did that. You have to do a good job in transition and we did a good job of keeping them out of transition for most of the night.”

Walter and fellow freshman center Yves Missi each led the Bears with 16 points apiece, while senior forward Jalen Bridges added 15. Although senior guard RayJ Dennis didn’t reach double-digit points, he ended the game on a triple-double watch with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

Bridges helped slingshot Baylor out of the gate, knocking down all four of his 3-point shots in the first 8:04. However, after Bridges’ tear, both offenses stalled out with each team only making eight first-half field goals and forfeiting nine turnovers each. Neither team scored in nearly the final five minutes of the half, and the Bears clung to a 25-23 lead at halftime.

“I thought Jalen has really been consistent, but then in the last couple of games he’s been more aggressive, and we need that,” Drew said. “He has the most experience. We have four guys who are starting who have never played in a Big 12 game before [this year]. So we need his leadership, we need him to be assertive, and he was great tonight.”

The Bears held the Frogs to just 33.3% shooting and bounced between different zone schemes and man defenses all night.

“I think it’s the mindset that we had coming into the game, considering we lost to them in triple-overtime last time,” Walter said when asked about the defensive effort. “We just had a lot of motivation and really wanted to focus on the defensive end, and just get out and score on the offensive end.”

Baylor mimicked its strong first-half start in the second half, going on a 10-0 run that was capped off by Walter’s kiss toward the TCU faithful. After finding their biggest lead of the game at the time — by a score of 42-31 — Dennis manned the ship and found Missi, who scored a bulk of his points in the painted area in the second half.

“If we can get in the paint, normally we get a pretty good shot,” Dennis said on ESPN 1660 Central Texas AM radio. “And I like to live in there anyway, and pass and make plays.”

The Bears fended off a late TCU run as Walter and Missi combined for more points in the second half (25) than the Frogs scored in the first 20 minutes of the game (23). In addition, Baylor tallied 16 points in the paint and 14 points off turnovers in the second half to roll to the 62-54 victory.

The Bears will look for redemption on Saturday when No. 7 Kansas (21-6, 9-5) comes to town. The Jayhawks took the first duel of the season between the two 64-61 back on Feb. 10 in Manhattan, Kan. Tipoff is scheduled for noon at Foster Pavilion on ABC.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Dennis said. “Don’t want to lose at home, right? I mean, we know how tough it is to win on the road, so we want to protect home court.”

Foster Nicholas is a junior from Parker, Colorado, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in film and digital media. In his fourth semester with the Lariat, he is excited to level up Baylor Lariat radio, do play-by-play for thrilling home games, and continue to feature some great Baylor athletes in print.