No. 7 Baylor is beginning to jell after breaking even against two of the nation’s best teams and will look to continue to improve when the Bears host McNesse State on Wednesday in Waco, Texas.
The Bears head home after splitting their two games in the Continental Tire Main Event in Las Vegas over the weekend. Baylor lost to now-ranked No. 5 Virginia — which won the event — 86-79 before beating now-No. 19 UCLA 80-75 Sunday in the consolation game.
LJ Cryer led the Bears (4-1) with a career-high 28 points vs. UCLA, and Adam Flagler added 22. In a back-and-forth game that saw nine ties and 13 lead changes, UCLA jumped ahead 53-50 with just under 12 minutes left. Baylor scored the next 11 points, including 3-pointers by Dale Bonner and Flagler, to go up 61-53, and the Bears never trailed again.
“You’re playing a lot of guys and you’re wearing people down,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said afterward. “LJ’s doing a great job mixing it, and I thought Adam really closed tonight. He’s done that before and is a very trustworthy guy down the stretch.”
UCLA whittled the Bears’ lead to a point with about four minutes left, but Cryer hit a clutch 3-pointer and Flagler nailed a pull-up jumper just inside the 3-point line to help cement the win, Baylor’s sixth straight over Pac-12 Conference teams.
“I’m just proud of our guys and how hard they competed and how we adjusted and did a much better job grinding things out,” Drew said. “We grew up and learned (after losing to Virginia 86-79 on Friday). When you’re playing this kind of competition, you don’t have much margin for error, and I thought for 40 minutes we did a much better job competing offensively and defensively.”
McNeese State (2-3) will square off against the Bears after beating Lamar 66-57 at home on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak. Trae English led the Cowboys with 17 points and hit four consecutive 3-pointers over an 18-7 run during a 1:12 span of the second half that gave McNeese State the lead for good.
“The team did a great job of moving the ball and finding me open, and I just knocked them down,” English said about his 3-point barrage. “I don’t think I’ve ever hit that many 3s in that short amount of time.”
It was McNeese State’s third game in a three-day span and followed losses to Western Carolina and Lindenwood by a combined 37 points.
Johnathan Massie added 11 points for the Cowboys in Sunday’s win while Christian Shumate grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. McNeese State shot just 41.5 percent from the field but limited Lamar to a 39.3 percent production that included a 4-of-24 showing from 3-point range.
“We responded better (against Lamar),” McNeese State coach John Aiken said. “That was the most important game of the season so far. The weekend hadn’t played out like we wanted, but we had to get a win.”
Baylor and McNeese State have played just once before, with the Bears winning 80-39 in 2014.
–Field Level Media