Feast Week Mission Briefing: Baylor in the Maui InvitationalPosted by Taylor Erickson on November 27th, 2013
With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: Baylor entered 2013-14 season sneaking in at #25 in the preseason AP poll, and jumped out to a 4-0 start with a 72-60 neutral site win over Colorado and a 66-64 home win over South Carolina. While neither of these teams are featured in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, they both provided solid tests for the Bears while working in new point guard Kenny Chery after the departure of standout guard Pierre Jackson a season ago. Baylor followed up its first two wins with a blowout home victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and by squeaking by with a 69-64 home win over Charleston Southern. Center Isaiah Austin was solid on the offensive end for Scott Drew last year, and his work on the defensive end early this season appears to be taking shape after blocking 15 shots in a span of two games.
First Round Recap: After watching fellow Big 12 foe Texas fall in Maui to host school Chaminade a season ago, the Silver Swords certainly had Baylor’s attention entering Monday night. That focus translated into a 93-77 win, despite the fact that Chaminade made 11 first half three-pointers in the contest. A majority of those points from deep came by way of Christophe Veridel, a Florida Gulf Coast transfer who lit the Bears up for 31 points the first 20 minutes of the game before being limited to just 11 second half points. Baylor had a hot shooting night themselves, connecting on 44 percent of shots from behind the arc and led by senior guard Gary Franklin, who paced Scott Drew’s squad with 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three. While most teams may have been rattled early on after seeing Veridel unconscious from deep, Baylor showed good poise to weather the early barrage of threes before using their size and athleticism to break the game open in the second half.
Second Round Recap: Fresh off an opening round win over Chaminade, many Baylor fans thought they had caught a break in their second round match-up by avoiding a tilt with Gonzaga after the ‘Zags were upset in the first round by Dayton. What followed was a 40-minute slugfest on Tuesday night that for the most part looked like it would result in a loss for the Bears. Baylor scored the first point of the game but would not lead again until forward Cory Jefferson rebounded a missed shot and scored the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left in the second half. Baylor guard Royce O’Neale buried a three with 2:19 remaining in the second half to cut Dayton’s lead to 63-62 before Dayton guard Devin Oliver answered on the other end with a three of his own, pushing the lead back to four at 66-62. On the return trip down the floor, Gary Franklin drilled a shot from deep again cutting the lead to one with 1:22 remaining, setting up a defensive stop and the final sequence by Jefferson that pushed Baylor ahead. While this victory doesn’t jump of the page as an impressive win to most, it does start to introduce an interesting storyline moving forward. From an outside perspective, that’s now two games in a row that Scott Drew’s team has shown some mental toughness in overcoming adversity, which could suggest that maybe this Bears’ makeup is a little different than those those recent seasons that have sputtered down the stretch in Big 12 play.
Championship Preview: After taking care of business the first two rounds of the Maui Invitational, Baylor finds itself in the championship game Wednesday night against #8 Syracuse at 9:00 PM CST. The Orange will easily be the most talented team Baylor has faced so far this season, and the patented Jim Boeheim zone defense will provide a different wrinkle for the Bears. Look for Baylor to use the versatility and shooting ability of Austin to work the middle and short corners against the zone defense, and use the hot shooting of guards Brady Heslip and Franklin to knock down shots from the outside. On the defensive end, keeping Syracuse guards Tyler Ennis, Trevor Cooney, and wing CJ Fair out of the lane will be key, along with boxing out bigs, namely Jerami Grant, who is great at using his athleticism to score down low. If Baylor can pull of the mild upset in Maui, it would go a long way towards giving this team more confidence as it heads toward conference play, and would provide a resume-building win that could prove beneficial come Selection Sunday.