In what figured to be a tougher opening test for Baylor than it ended up being, Scott Drew’s team made short work of the same Lehigh defense that flustered Duke during last year’s signature upset special in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
It’s never wise to draw absolute conclusions—for good or bad—from a team’s first game, as so many fans are inclined to do having not seen college basketball in seven months. But we’re going to anyway, with no regrets. Let Busting Brackets be on record as saying Baylor’s offense will not be a problem this year. In fact, it could be the best in college hoops by season’s end.
Lehigh began the game with a 2-0 lead before the ball even tipped. That was just academic. It was all Baylor from there. The Bears were assessed a cheap technical foul for dunking during a restricted time in warm-ups, when dunking is disallowed. But that silly T didn’t stop Baylor from dunking once the game got underway. The Bears finished the game with 12 drunks—26 made shots at the rim in total—as Baylor blitzed an overmatched Lehigh team 99-77 at the Ferrell Center.
A few takeaways from the game:
Cory Jefferson broke out in a big way: Buried behind Baylor’s talented frontcourt quartet last year (Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Anthony Jones), Jefferson proved that his limited playing time wasn’t for lack of talent. The junior forward scored a team-best 26 points (18 in the first half) on 12 of 16 shooting from the floor and pulled down a game-high 13 boards.
Isiaiah Austin: College basketball will in fact have a reincarnation of Anthony Davis. He just won’t be wearing the same garb like some high school talent evaluators predicted. Isaiah Austin, not Nerlens Noel, proved on Friday why he’s the most talented freshman pivot—and maybe best center in all of college hoops regardless of class—in America. The Busting Brackets preseason freshman of the year wasted no time showcasing his Davis-like versatility. His first six shots in college were as follows: a lay-in after an offensive rebound, a made 3-point shot, a made mid-range jumper, a dunk, lay-up and one more dunk for good measure. He also mixed in a blocked shot and several strong defensive rebounds along the way. Does it get any more diverse for a 7-footer? The freshman sensation left the game with what appeared to be a sprained right ankle and did not return to the game (though he later returned to the bench). His final line for the night: 22 pts (10-12 FG, 2-4 3FG), 4 rebounds, 2 blocks in 17 minutes.
Pierre Jackson. He can beat you in so many ways, and flaunted one of them today. It wasn’t Jackson’s knee-buckling handle, deadly 3-point shot or craftiness around the basket that burnt the Mountain Hawks today. It was his passing. And it was on full display in Waco tonight. Jackson record 12 assists (nine in the first half) and dazzled the home crowd with his pinpoint precision dishing the rock.
C.J. McCollum can’t do it alone, certainly not as a volume scorer. He was matching the Austin-Jefferson tag-team blow for blow in the first half, but simply ran out of gas in the second. McCollum finished with 36 points, the second highest scoring total of his career, but took way too many shots (32 in all) to do it. After an efficient first half shooting the basketball, McCollum became a volume scorer in the second. But it wasn’t just selfishness on his part that led to the bloated shots total. No other Mountain Hawk stepped up in back of McCollum, as the other four starters were limited to 7 of 29 shooting from the floor. Baylor exploited Lehigh’s defense all night, and dominated on the glass, but it’s difficult to win when only one starter shows up on the offensive end. As good as McCollum is, Lehigh is not a cinch to win the Patriot League unless the team gets better production out of the supporting cast.