Three Key Takeaways.
- Great start… In the early minutes of the game, South Dakota State was all energy while Baylor was flat as a pancake. The Jackrabbits made their first four baskets and scored 19 points on their first 12 possessions. Meanwhile, the Bears were just standing around on offense, blowing layups and turning the ball over (four turnovers on their first eight possessions) and it looked like we would be in for a surprise as South Dakota State built up a 12-point lead. Even the crowd support was a blowout with the upstart Jackrabbit fans loud and proud while Bear fans were still wandering in from the parking lot.
- But… The athletic mismatch in this game was apparent from the start. When the teams first walked on the court, the size disparity was obvious and astounding. While some of the more high profile Bears struggled through the game, they had enough talent to find players to make plays. Junior point guard Pierre Jackson was the first Bear to take charge, getting to the rim and playing with fire, while senior Anthony Jones came off the bench and chipped in 11 points in a perfect (4-4 FG, 1-1 from 3-point range, 2-2 FT) first half. Throw in Brady Heslip who dialed in the range from deep on his way to 17 points and Baylor has a lot of weapons.
- Hibernating Bears. They are the all-airport team. They are amazing in the pregame layup line. And NBA scouts drool over their potential. And then they get out on the court and there’s no energy, unfocused offense, sloppy defense and unforced turnovers. They are your Baylor Bears, folks. They have the potential to be as good as anybody in the country, but for all the good things they do, often seemingly effortlessly, there are far too many minutes where they seem literally without effort. Perry Jones III, for all the talent in his 6’11” frame, scored just two points and did little to distinguish himself, while Quincy Acy was a mess, struggling to handle the ball and getting beat on the glass by less athletic South Dakota State players.
Star of the Game. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State. Even in a losing effort, Wolters wowed. All of the Jackrabbit offense ran through him, he spent time dogging Heslip in the first half and Jackson in the second (the halves during which those players were quiet) and he scored 19 points, handed out four assists and grabbed four boards. Sure, he turned it over five times and too often got suckered into some bad three-point attempts, but he was primarily responsible for helping South Dakota State keep this game fairly interesting.
Sights & Sounds. My god. Those uniforms. My eyes! Andy Katz calls them “the highlighters,” the day-glo yellow unis that Baylor sported, replete with fluorescent socks and shoelaces, definitely took a while to get adjusted to. Maybe that’s an excuse the Bears can use for their slow start, but those things definitely took a few minutes (or more) to adjust to.
Wildcard. On the season, Heslip has shot roughly 79% of his field goal attempts from behind the three-point arc. Tonight, it was 100%, as he shot ten balls from deep and made five, all in catch-and-shoot situations. The interior talent for the Bears is apparent, but a gunner like Heslip could make a big difference in this potential Baylor run.
What’s Next? Baylor will face the winner of the nightcap in Albuquerque between UNLV and Colorado on Saturday. If it’s the Buffs, the Bears will be playing in front of a hostile crowd, while if it is the Rebels they will face a team that has at least a similar caliber of athlete.