via The Sports Xchange
Fourth-ranked Baylor absorbed Jackson State’s hot start and pulled away in the second half for an 82-57 victory on Saturday at Abrams Gym in Fort Hood, Texas.
Baylor was playing a home game at the U.S. military post for the second straight season and eventually put on a show in the second half.
“It’s great to give back to these soldiers that give their lives for us,” Baylor guard Al Freeman said. “It’s a great opportunity, so we need to give them a good game.”
Baylor went on a 15-3 run out of the halftime locker room. Freeman hit a 3-pointer to start the surge and Baylor made 8 of 8 free throws in the streak to go in front 50-35 with 14:53 left.
Freeman scored 19 points to lead Baylor. Forward Jo Lual-Acuil added 17 points and five blocks for the Bears (10-0).
“My teammates did a great job,” Freeman said. “(Forward Johnathan Motley) and Jo down there in the paint manhandling business made it so easy for us guards to get wide-open shots. It’s really because of them that it opened up the floor for us.”
Guard Edric Dennis scored 21 points to lead Jackson State (3-8).
Baylor and Jackson State exchanged the lead eight times in the first half. But the Bears never trailed in the final 20 minutes and led by as many as 28.
The Tigers entered with depth problems due to injuries, and those struggles were made worse when forwards Janarius Middleton, Maurice Rivers and Derek Roscoe fouled out and forward Sherron Wilson was ejected after a flagrant foul.
“We’ve got five guys injured and three are starters,” Jackson State coach Wayne Brent said. “That’s been the most frustrating part of our season. We’re having to coach through it. Now we’re playing our 10th, 11th and 12th guy, and normally they wouldn’t be getting into the game.”
The Bears shot 49 percent from the field and held the Tigers to 28 percent shooting from the floor.
Jackson State began the game with an edge both in energy level and shooting touch. The Tigers hit 5 of 10 3-pointers and shot 45 percent from the field as they took an early lead.
Dennis hit a trey from several feet behind the arc on the top left to put Jackson State in front 24-21 with 8:10 remaining in the first half.
But Baylor answered by finishing the first half on a 16-8 run.
Freeman hit a trey to begin the run and two 3-pointers to cap it. Freeman finished the first half with nine points as Baylor took a 37-32 edge to the break.
Lual-Acuil scored nine points to match Freeman.
Guard Paris Collins scored 12 points in the first half to lead Jackson State.
Jackson State forced Baylor into seven turnovers in the first half while committing just five. Jackson State also went to halftime with a 16-15 rebounding lead.
“We thought we were in pretty good shape at the half,” Brent said. “But I told the guys coming out in the second half they’re a good team and are going to give you their best shot, and that’s exactly what they did.”
However, Baylor’s depth and size advantages began to assert themselves late in the first half. The Bears shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and held the Tigers to 39.3 percent shooting.