WACO, Texas — Baylor’s first two games couldn’t have been much different in terms of pace and efficiency.
The 25th-ranked Bears seemingly made everything against Central Arkansas, but that was not the case Monday against a deliberate Texas A&M-Corpus Christi team.
That slow pace took Baylor out of its flow early, but Manu Lecomte scored 23 points to help the Bears pull away for a 70-46 win.
“So that’s a tale of two games. First game you can’t miss, second game you can’t score,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “It’s a credit to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. They had a great game plan, shorten the game, make you play defense. We did a good job in the first half, but in the second half, we did a better job being consistent and getting some transition buckets, which really helped.”
The Bears (2-0) were down 20-19 late in the first half before scoring eight straight points to go ahead to stay. Terry Maston and Lecomte both had two free throws, before Lecomte hit a 3-pointer and Maston a jumper.
Maston finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Baylor, which used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to take control.
Nuni Omot added 12 points for the Bears, punctuating the win with a thunderous one-handed dunk with 2:15 to go that brought the crowd to its feet.
“He had one similar to that in practice, but nothing like that,” Maston said of Omot’s dunk. “He just kept going up, and up, and up.”
Joseph Kilgore led the Islanders (1-1) with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Corpus Christi shot only 36 percent (21 of 58) overall and was only 3-of-18 on 3-pointers.
“We’re young, we’re a little bit naïve about some situations, and we haven’t really connected the dots on how one play can affect the next series of events that take place over the course of a basketball game,” A&M-Corpus coach Willis Wilson said. “I think our guys are smart enough to learn from experience and get better from it.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Neither team turned the ball over much, but the Islanders didn’t take advantage when Baylor did. The Bears outscored them 15-0 off turnovers, and A&M-Corpus also didn’t get much from the bench with nine points. Perry Francois was the Islanders’ top reserve with six points, but he fouled out in only nine minutes of action.
Baylor: One game after setting school records for shooting with a 66.1 percent mark from the floor and 71 percent from 3-point range (12 of 17), the Bears struggled to get started offensively. Lecomte’s 3-pointer with 2 minutes left in the first half were the first points for Baylor that didn’t come in the paint or from the free throw line. The Bears shot 47 percent overall (25 of 53) and 26 percent on 3-pointers (5 of 19).
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns home to face Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday.
Baylor ends its season-opening, three-game homestand against Alcorn State on Friday.
Baylor dropped a spot in the poll this week despite an easy 107-66 win over Central Arkansas in its opener. The Bears figure to have plenty of chances to make a move with games against Wisconsin, either UCLA or Creighton, Xavier and Wichita State before the end of the month.
GOOD TO BE BACK
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Willis Wilson was 8-3 against Baylor during his time at Rice, but he hadn’t faced led a team against the Bears in Waco since 2000. That was a much different program than Baylor has today.
“It’s been a long time since I had a chance to play in this building,” Wilson said. “Things have changed around the culture of the program since I was here last, and that’s really positive to see. For me it was a great opportunity to find out about our guys playing against a nationally established program like Baylor. We were able to learn a lot about ourselves.”
Since 2000, Baylor has reached two NCAA Elite Eights, four Sweet 16s and spent a week at No. 1 last season for the first time in school history.