LAS VEGAS: Baylor’ hadn’t been on a basketball court for a game in 266 days, until Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
And it showed — for a moment.
The Bears shook off a sluggish start to the season, MaCio Teague scored 21 points and No. 2 Baylor won its delayed season opener 112-82 over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Baylor, which adjusted its opening schedule after coach Scott Drew tested positive for Covid-19, shot 45-for-80 (56.3%) from the floor, including 15-for-27 (55.6%) from 3-point range. The Bears’ 15 3-pointers were their most in a game since last year’s season opener, when they made 18 against Central Arkansas.
“The first three or four minutes of the game you could see the guys really winded,” said Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang, who served as head coach for Drew. “Game speed is so much different than practice. … I felt like we got our legs underneath us and focused in a little bit more. Our depth, too … I just felt like we got better when we subbed.”
Davion Mitchell finished with 18 points for the Bears (1-0). Jared Butler and LJ Cryer each scored 17 and Adam Flagler chipped in 12.
“Anyone can go off any night,” Mitchell said. “Just spreading the ball (and) passing the ball, we’re gonna share the sugar, we’re gonna have fun.”
Cedric Russell led the Ragin Cajuns (0-1) with 26 points. Theo Akwuba scored 22 and Brayan Au added 16.
The Bears were supposed to open the season with two games in Connecticut, but didn’t make the trip to the Empire Classic where they would have played No. 18 Arizona State and No. 3 Villanova.
Baylor had also been scheduled to play Seton Hall on Sunday, but the schools mutually agreed to cancel the game in Las Vegas. Drew stayed home in Waco, Texas.
In an earlier game in Las Vegas on Saturday, Air Force defeated Cal State Northridge, 66-61. There are two games scheduled for Sunday and another Monday.
The games were part of a string of opening-week contests being played in neutral cities without spectators. So, rather than a thunderous two-handed slam dunk by Baylor’s Flo Thamba with 11:55 left in the first half igniting a crowd, it took the sounds of Waka Flocka Flame, Lil Baby or Drake to make the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights’ home arena vibrate during timeouts.
The Bears came out sluggish in the first half, allowing Louisiana-Lafayette to hang around. The Ragin’ Cajuns hit five of their first six free throws, including four straight at the midway point, cutting Baylor’s lead to one, 21-20.
The Bears went on a 32-20 run and carried a 53-40 lead into the intermission.
Led by Mitchell, who was a 6-for-6 from the floor en route to 13 first-half point, Baylor shot 56.4% (22 of 39) from the field, including 9 of 15 (60%) from 3-point range. The Bears had eight players contribute to the scoring in the first 20 minutes.
“I felt like we took a lot of uncontested shots and that was teammates creating shots for each other,” Tang said. “I’m pretty sure when we break down this film, there won’t be too many, especially in the second half, what we would grade as a tough shot.”