Baylor got 20 points from point guard Kenny Chery and 17 points and nine boards from starting center Jonathon Motley as the Bears picked up a nice road win over South Carolina on Tuesday, 69-65.
The Gamecocks got 21 points from Tyrone Johnson while Sindarius Thornwell chipped in with 16 points and four assists.
Baylor was able to maintain control of the game for much of the second half, and while they couldn’t pull away — South Carolina never trailed by more than 10 points — the Gamecocks didn’t threaten much until the final seconds of the game.
The Bears have some talent on their roster, but there is going to be a bit of a learning curve for Scott Drew’s squad, as a number of key pieces will be playing expanded roles this season. Rico Gathers was a role player coming off the bench last season. He’ll start at center this year. Motley redshirted last season and has been thrust into a starting role this year. Lester Medford, a starting off-guard, was at Indian Hill CC last season.
Working through how to replace Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson will be a season long process.
And while there have been some promising moments — Royce O’Neale finishing with seven assists on a day when Chery is 6-for-16 from the floor without an assists, Motley’s start to the season, etc. — Baylor is going to need bigger contributions from their role players if they are going to be relevant in the Big 12. Gathers had four fouls, just one shot attempt and not rebounds on Tuesday. He only had one game as a sophomore where he didn’t get a single rebound. Allerik Freeman and Ishmail Wainwright didn’t score a point.
The Bears have the pieces to make it to the NCAA tournament this season, but they can’t just rely on their stars to be able to get it done.