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A walk in the park: Baylor rolls past Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 99-54
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A walk in the park: Baylor rolls past Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 99-54

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Perhaps it was the free admission at the Ferrell Center and the general frivolity around the Baylor campus that gave the Bears versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff game a sort of Saturday afternoon open-gym feel.

Baylor, never a squad to play with surly intensity, was as breezy as usual as it raced past the visiting Golden Lions and claimed a 99-54 victory.

The fourth-ranked Bears established a 20-point lead midway through the first half and never gave outmanned UAPB a reason to think it might hang with the defending national champions for very long.

By the time Baylor guard James Akinjo hit a 3-pointer with 4:38 to go in the first half, it was the seventh time the Bears had landed their favorite punch. Baylor went to the half 7 of 18 from beyond the arc, a little off its normal blistering pace but still a high enough percentage to distance from the Golden Lions.

Guard LJ Cryer scored 20 to lead five Baylor players in double figures. Bears forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua produced a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Mathew Mayer added 14, Jeremy Sochan pitched in 12 and Kendall Brown had 11.

The Bears finished 13 of 32 from 3-point range, but it wasn’t the only thing the home team did well on Saturday afternoon.

Early in the first half, Sochan picked the pocket of UAPB guard Klyen Milton and started a fast break the other way. Sochan threw a long bounce pass that Tchamwa Tchatchoua caught a vaulted for a monster dunk.

“I’m a team player and I think everyone else wants to play as a team, so just passing the ball and sharing it with others is really exciting for us,” Sochan said.

Although Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s slam only boosted the Bears’ lead to 12-5, it sent a message.

The Golden Lions hedged on the side of keeping Baylor from running away. UAPB retreated on missed jumpers, surrendering much hope of gathering offensive rebounds in order to keep the Bears from running off defensive rebounds. That helped Baylor pound the Golden Lions on the boards, 49-24.

“We noticed nobody was rebounding,” Cryer said. “Whenever we’d get a rebound and would be looking to push, everybody was back already. Credit to them, they got back fast. But I don’t know, that was weird.”

Baylor’s stingy defense was in evidence as well. The Bears forced UAPB into back-to-back shot-clock violations at the 7:11 and 6:27 marks of the first half. Those two Golden Lions possession signaled their low point of an 11-0 Baylor run.

Bears coach Scott Drew said a few of the things the Golden Lions did took getting used to, but the Bears figured it out pretty quick.

“They did a good job in the beginning keeping us out of transition, really keeping everything compact, keeping us out of the paint,” Drew said. “And then I know some of our guys aren’t used to being that open on shots. But eventually we got things going.”

The Bears led 44-21 at the break and extended the margin to 39 quickly in the second half when Matthew Mayer hit a trey from the right corner. At that point, UAPB had scored just five points in the second half, not nearly enough to keep up.

The Golden Lions bounced back the rest of the way and shot 46% in the second half. Guard Brandon Brown led UAPB with 19 points.

Baylor now has a week off before hosting No. 6 Villanova in the Big East/Big 12 Battle on Dec. 12.

“First game back form the islands is normally a game that a lot of coaches get worried about,” said Drew, referring to the Bears’ tournament victory at the Battle 4 Atlantis. “I thought our guys did a good job executing and getting our feet back wet and playing after being off for a number of days. Now it gives us a good week to prepare and get ready for Villanova.”

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