Baylor Basketball

Baylor off to a hot start despite limited roster to open season

November 10, 2017

This was expected. A perennial tournament team that’s won more games than its opponent has in the past four seasons combined, Baylor’s going to win. Favorably so. If all a 107-66 win means is peace of mind that the new replacements are as advertised and gel with the veterans, that’s a successful day.

“You probably want to end the season there,” head coach Scott Drew said after the game, pointing out the team’s 66 percent field goal rate while also hitting 85 percent of free throws. 

Manu Lecomte in midseason form after summer ball experience

A better base of comparison for Lecomte is his last performances in the tournament playing against more qualified opponents. But Lecomte’s role against Central Arkansas was a stark contrast to where he was in his debut with the team last season against Oral Roberts with a double-double.

Lecomte finished today with one of his most impressive scoring performances putting up 22 points, scoring exclusively from the free throw line and three-point range. He was constantly in the right place with the right move. After the game, he said he felt his time with the national Belgium team is already paying off, as he's said that helped him learn how to slow the game down. Though, he wasn't taking sole credit for his performance.

“I thought I had open threes, that’s what I do,” Lecomte said. “But my teammates- you know, fastbreak did a great job pushing the ball and finding me. All I gotta do is run and spot up.”

It wasn’t until the start of the second half he missed from beyond the arc. That came at the expense of having just two assists, but that role was filled well by Nuni Omot’s nine assists. Omot’s assists might be a one-off performance but in the wake of losing Ish Wainright’s dishing ability, it’s good to see a big absorb that role- as did Mark Vital in his debut, assisting six times.

“You always take what the defense is giving you, and I thought this afternoon we had a great interior advantage and bigs really did a good job in feeding each other,” Drew said. “And making sure they placed the ball where the smaller guys couldn’t get to it. That’s something we’ve worked on.”

Tristan Clark already settling in as a freshman

Sitting in the paint, Clark was on the receiving end of a good portion of those assists, ready to impress in his debut as a true freshman.

Clark’s first shot came early in the first half getting the inbound pass from Jo Lual-Acuil, missing a layup that led to a jump ball after fighting to keep possession. From there, Clark was pitch perfect, muscling his way through the lane with rare form. There was little evidence he’s an 18-year-old out of high school, scoring 15 points, missing just two shots.

Most impressive, Clark led the team with a 31 +/- on the court for 27 minutes. If there’s one player who looks to take over where J-Mot left off, Clark looks the part despite the “first game jitters” he said he felt before the game.

“The thing about Tristan is he had three assists to only one turnover. So normally, freshmen tend to turn it over and he really does a good job of being sound with the ball,” Drew said. “He’s very skilled. You can see that from 7-for-9 from the field and I know Tristan’s one of those guys that our upperclassmen love because he’s so coachable.

Defense puts the pressure on thick

One of the most illuminating stats of the afternoon was Central Arkansas’ affinity for the deep ball despite making just 4-of-11 three-pointers in the first half and just 2-of-9 in the last 20 minutes. It’s not out of the norm for the Bears, though, as the team crossed that attempt threshold 15 times last season with only slightly better accuracy. 

Still, there was undeniable urgency from Central Arkansas that Baylor’s full-tilt offense influenced, giving the defense a boost. 

Though there’s no stat kept for air balls, it’s probably safe to assume Central Arkansas’ seven air balls are a team worst. Baylor’s pressure was undeniable in that sense with the likes of Lual-Acuil and Terry Maston forcing the offense’s hand underneath. Even Jake Lindsey got in the mix, blocking a shot after one of Baylor’s 16 turnovers (only West Virginia forced more last season). Drew said that rash of turnovers is the one negative of the game.

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Baylor off to a hot start despite limited roster to open season

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