WACO, Texas (AP) With its work in the classroom finished for the semester, No. 4 Baylor was ready to focus on basketball Wednesday night.
The Bears had taken an 11-day break for final exams, but they didn’t show any rust with five players scoring in double figures, led by Johnathan Motley’s 20 points and 10 rebounds, in an 89-59 victory over Southern.
“Coming off finals, you’re always worried, Is the team going to be focused? Are they going to have their legs? Are they going to come out and not be ready to go?” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And we got out to a great start and got separation early. And then, did a good job of maintaining that.”
The Bears (9-0) hadn’t played since a 76-61 win over then-No. 7 Xavier on Dec. 3, but opened on an 11-0 run and scored 15 of the game’s first 18 points. They turned 11 first-half Southern turnovers into 20 points on the other end.
Jared Sam and Shawn Prudhomme scored 24 points each to lead Southern (4-6). They combined to shoot 18 for 27 from the field, but the rest of the Jaguars combined to make five field goals.
“We finally got Shawn and Jared going, but that was mostly in the second half,” Southern coach Roman Banks said. “In the first half we had no rhythm. In the second half, we cut it to 19 and we missed a couple layups. That was our last true run at that point.”
Ishmail Wainright helped Baylor with 14 points and five steals, Al Freeman put in 14 points and Jo Lual-Acuil and King McClure went for 10 apiece. Manu Lecomte and Jake Lindsay both had eight assists for Baylor.
“Early in the second half, we tried to make some spectacular plays instead of making the easy plays,” Drew said. “And we want to make sure we’re operating more efficiently, but I think the guys just wanted to excite the crowd a little bit. The big thing is we were pretty consistent the entire night defensively, holding them to 59 points. And 22 assists on 36 made field goals was very impressive.”
Southern: Prudhomme and Sam came up big for the Jaguars against their toughest opponent to date. If they can find others to help them out, they should be a team to reckon with during SWAC play.
Baylor: The Bears have shown a mix of size and athleticism during their perfect start, and both of those were bolstered Wednesday with the addition of Nuni Omot, a 6-foot-9 swingman. Omot missed the first eight games because of an issue with his credits transferring, but scored eight points in his debut.
“(Omot brings) length, incredible athleticism, the ability to stretch the floor because he shoots the ball so well at 6-9,” Motley said. “He’s just an awesome athlete. He’ll add more athleticism than we already have. He’ll add length to our defensive lineup. It will be good when he puts it all together.”
Southern will stay on the road for two more games against UAB on Sunday and Nebraska on Tuesday before returning home to close nonconference play against Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 28.
Baylor finishes its nonconference slate with a neutral-site game at Fort Hood against Jackson State on Saturday before home games against NAIA John Brown on Sunday and Texas Southern on Dec. 21.