WACO, Texas (AP) — Seventh-ranked Baylor was just fine after finally settling back in at home after a weekend in Las Vegas.
True freshman Keyonte George scored 17 points and Adam Flagler added 13 with nine assists as the Bears kept helping each other while pulling away for an 89-60 victory after falling behind early against McNeese State on Wednesday.
“First half, I didn’t know if we had gotten back from Vegas or not. I thought McNeese really had great intensity, had a great game plan,” Bears coach Scott Drew said. “Second half, I thought we did a much better job defensively and imposing our will. That leaves a much better taste in your mouth going into Thanksgiving.”
LJ Cryer had 16 points for the Bears (5-1) to follow up three consecutive 20-point games that garnered him Big 12 player of the week honors. Three days after a career-high 28 points in a win over then-No. 8 UCLA, Cryer had two 3-pointers and a jumper to push the Bears to a quick 10-2 lead.
The Bears had 30 assists on 34 made field goals while shooting 56.7% (34 of 60). Dale Bonner had 12 assists with seven points. Langston Love scored 11 points.
Jonathan Massie and Zach Scott each had 12 points for McNeese State (2-4). All of Scott’s scoring came on four 3-pointers.
After McNeese had a 12-0 run, with Massie and Scott each making two 3s in a span of just more than two minutes, Bridges had a slam dunk on a pass from Flagler to break the game’s last tie. That up put Baylor up 21-19 with 8 1/2 minutes left in the first half before George’s 3 out of a timeout after on of McNeese’s 21 turnovers.
“They had us in rotations. We had a couple people in the wrong spots,” Cryer said. “They were making uncontested shots, so we just made it a goal to contest it.”
After making 10 of their first 17 shots, the Cowboys were only 10 of 35 the rest of the game.
“Second half, we were a lot better than the first half. They scored 30 and 30 (each half), but the percentages were just a lot better and a faster pace too,” Drew said. “So we’re a lot more locked in.”
RIGHT BACK UP
George had an interesting stretch late in the first half that started with his bad pass to Caleb Lohner at the rim. But after McNeese missed three shots on the ensuing possession, those two Bears executed the alley-oop, with George’s precision pass to Lohner across the baseline for a powerful dunk. George then added a three-point play, a layup when being fouled before the free throw made it 35-28.
“One mistake can’t lead to another, so just forgetting about that play and moving on to the next possession,” George said. “I see him on the lobs all the time. He’s trusting me to make that pass and I’m trusting him to catch it.”
TRIO OF 3s
After going 2 for 10 against UCLA on Sunday, George was only 3-of-10 against McNeese before hitting three consecutive 3-pointers in a span of 1 minute, 49 seconds late.
McNeese State: The Cowboys hadn’t played a ranked team in nearly four years, since losing 90-77 at No. 22 Mississippi State on Dec. 4, 2018. Baylor, which has won all four games in the series, was the first of three Top 25 opponents they are set to face before Christmas. They play next Wednesday at No. 22 Tennessee, then go to second-ranked Houston on Dec. 21.
Baylor: While far from their crispiest game, Baylor had too much depth and talent over the full 40 minutes against McNeese. The Bears hadd missed seven of 10 free throws after Bridges had two misses with just under 15 minutes left when they led only 45-34. They finished 9 of 17 on free throws, and only had a 33-32 rebounding edge.
McNeese State plays Monday night at UT Martin.
Baylor is at Marquette on Tuesday night, three days before playing sixth-ranked Gonzaga in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and
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