WACO, Texas — With one eye looking forward to Christmas break and Big 12 play, No. 18 Baylor didn’t look sharp for stretches Wednesday night.
But Bears coach Scott Drew is always quick to point out the number of upsets college basketball produces, almost on a nightly basis, so he was happy to see his team avoid that trap.
Manu Lecomte scored 22 points and Baylor won its fifth straight, 80-60 over Southern.
“It was a great night. Most importantly going into Christmas, we got the win,” Drew said. “This is a Southern team that has played a lot of teams close. Duke was a single-digit game most of the way and ended up being 17. There’s a reason Texas Southern and Southern have been the teams to go to the NCAA Tournament from the SWAC in recent history the most.”
Baylor went on a 13-0 run in the first half to pull away, then had an 11-2 spurt after Southern cut its lead to 46-40 midway through the second half.
The Bears (10-2) shot 63 percent from the field (31 for 49), including 11 for 22 from 3-point range. Lecomte was 6 for 9 on 3s. King McClure added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting for Baylor, which won despite turning the ball over 21 times compared to six for Southern.
“We did a bad job taking care of the ball. We didn’t do a great job (offensive) rebounding,” Drew said. “Other than that, I’m happy with the guys, and most of all happy they get to go home for a happy Christmas. The shooting percentages are pretty good. The turnovers have been great up until the last two games. So I guess Scrooge got in the building the last two games. We’ve got to get him out of here. We know we can’t win in the Big 12 with 21 turnovers.”
The Bears’ inside game made its presence felt, especially on the defensive end. Baylor had a 41-26 rebound advantage and blocked 10 shots. Tristan Clark led the Baylor frontcourt with 11 points.
“I thought we just kind of ran out of gas,” Southern coach Morris Scott said. “Those guys are a great team, and they’ve got a lot of bigs that can come in and pound you on the inside. They do a great job with their team, and they knocked down some 3s and kind of got away from us in the second half.”
Jared Sam led the Jaguars (3-9) with 21 points, and Jamar Sandifer had 14. Southern shot 27 for 72 from the field (38 percent) but was only 2 for 15 from 3-point range (13 percent).
Southern: It was a well-played game by the Jaguars in terms of turnover margin. They didn’t do enough with Baylor’s mistakes, however, as the Bears’ turnovers turned into 19 points on the other end. Baylor scored 12 off Southern’s six turnovers. Southern also couldn’t find consistent ball movement and finished with 11 assists, just more than half of Baylor’s total of 20.
Baylor: It was a slow start for the Bears, who trailed 13-10 6 minutes in before ripping off its decisive first-half run. The Bears’ outside shooting finally opened up the lane in the final minutes, especially for Mark Vital, who had three late dunks and 10 points in a 5-for-6 night.
Baylor had a soft schedule to finish nonconference play, but that ramps up in a big way once Big 12 play begins. Six teams in the Big 12 are ranked in the Top 25, including Baylor, and two others are receiving votes.
Southern will return home to meet Ecclesia College on Dec. 29.
Baylor begins Big 12 play on the road against No. 21 Texas Tech on Dec. 29.