This was absolutely how this game should have gone. McNeese State is not a very good team, coming off of a 11-20 season. Baylor did what it was suppose to do, and they did it with ease. A 80-39 win with all eleven Bears that saw the floor scoring, and assisting on 23 of the 30 made shots. This was easy. However, there are always thoughts and things to learn, especially when the Bears had so many new faces in large roles for the Bears. Here are some key takeaways from last nights win.
1. Lester Medford is FAST. Really fast. He plays with incredible energy and is always attacking. With McNeese State playing a zone for quite a bit of the game, we didn't see much dribble penetration. However, you could tell that attacking the paint is his default setting. Starting the game, and getting 27 minutes, Medford made three of five 3-pointers showing a capable deep shot. If Medford can continue to show at least a capable three-point shot, he is going to be very difficult to defend.
2. Medford got the start with Taurean Prince sitting out the game due to a violation of team rules. It will be interesting to see what the Bears do at the shooting guard, small forward, and power forward positions with their full compliment of talent. In this game, Royce O'Neale got the start at the small forward with Medford at guard. Ricardo Gathers started at the power forward position next to Jonathan Motley. Neither of those players were really in question as starters. When Prince is eligible, some think that the Bears could go with a larger starting lineup with O'Neale sliding to up to shooting guard and Prince playing at small forward. That could work, but I think they like Medford at the 2-guard in certain matchups. Prince will be leaned on at small forward, but also power forward. With only Motley, Gathers and Deng Deng down low, the Bears could go smaller with Prince at the power forward spot to speed up the game.
3. It was obvious that the Bears wanted to speed the game up. Last year, with twin-towers Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin on the court, the Bears trusted their half-court offense. This year though, they appear to be playing quicker, something that I think will work with a smaller and faster lineup. Medford and Chery are both comfortable playing up-tempo. With guys like Allerick Freeman, Ish Wainright, O'Neale and Prince all on the wings, the Bears should be able to play faster this year. You can also tell that Jonathan Motley and Deng Deng would rather get out and run as well. Anytime you have bigs like that, you have to take advantage.
4. Speaking of Deng Deng....wow. You can tell he is a very skilled big-man with a good stroke from all over the court. He has an easy shot. He was 8-9 from the field for a team high 16 points, in just 16 minutes. Talk about efficiency. It will be interesting to see if he earns more and more playing time, but he will be a very solid 3rd post for the Bears, and will get big minutes all year. I was also excited to see Jonathan Motley. Really surprised me with his good shooting stroke as well, and he even hit an early 3-pointer. His post game is still developing, and he will get better at fighting for post position and demanding the ball. You can see the skills though.
5. The Bears will be slight in the post all year. Rico Gathers is a beast with great strength, but is not a good rim protector at all. For some reason, Drew likes him in the middle of the Bears zone defense, under the basket. It makes some sense, as they might not think he has the agility to defend the wings as well as the Baylor zone defense demands. They also keep their best rebounder very close to the basket. However, any time the offense can get into the paint, they have a big advantage finishing over Gathers. Being able to cover Gathers up and protect the paint without a true rim-protector is something to watch in future games.
6. I was very pleased with the game. The Bears took too many three-pointers, but you expect that against a zone defense early. That will be a weakness this year I think, the ability to shoot teams out of a zone defense and make teams pay for it. They don't have a Brady Heslip type shooter. Not many teams do. They might not have a guy as good as Gary Franklin either, which is a problem. Medford shot well this game, but his shot has been inconsistent so far in his career. Freeman was just 1-4. Kenny Chery was just 1-5, and his shot did not look that good last night. I do think he is capable of being a solid 3-point shooter though. Overall, Baylor was just 7-22 from behind the arc. That type of performance is not good enough.
7. Really tough to tell how good the defense can be in a game like this. You can at least see the offense run plays and manage tempo. Defensively, you are simply reacting to what the offense does. McNeese didn't do much of anything, and it is too hard to tell if it was because of Baylor, or because of McNeese. We will learn more about the defense and rebounding in future games. Overall, this was a blowout win in dominating fashion, even when adjusting expectations for the opponent. Doubling the opposition up does not happen often.