Behind 20 points from Kenny Chery, 18 of which came after halftime, the Baylor Bears secured their first road win of the young season. The Bears led by 10 points after Jonathan Motley’s jumper with just under 5 minutes to go. However, an almost 4-minute drought would put the Gamecocks back into the game as the Bears missed four straight shots and committed three turnovers as South Carolina cut the lead down to 3 until a Jonathan Motley tip-in put the Bears back up by five. After that, it came down to free throws with Kenny Chery hitting two with under 2 seconds to go to preserve the Bears win.
Key Thoughts from the Game
1. Where is Deng? The Bears junior college transfer has made a big impact in his young tenure with the Bears, however the junior big-man did not appear on the court for the Bears in the second half. He had 6 points in 8 minutes. The return of Taurean Prince (who had 14 second half minutes) obviously impacted Deng’s playing time, but it was rather interesting and curious that Deng did not make another appearance.
2. The Bears will only go as Kenny Chery goes. Let us be quite blunt. Chery was awful in the first half. 1 made field goal on 7 attempts, with no assists and 2 turnovers is not what the Bears need from their senior point guard. The second half was a different story, as Chery was excellent. Chery was 5-9 from the field for a team best 18 points in the second half including three 3-pointers. While he had no assists, Chery did a good job of swinging the ball and getting it to the right player.
3. Royce O’Neale is Mr. Glue. 9 points, a team high 7 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal, and most of that production came in the second half. Chery might be the engine to this team, but O’Neale is the frame. He fills in the gaps so well. The Bears needed help on the boards, especially with Motley and Rico Gathers in foul trouble in the second half. O’Neale gave them everything the Bears needed and a bit more.
4. Lack of motion/passing. A common issue with Drew’s teams the past few years has been the long scoring droughts. This is pretty common in college basketball as a whole, but it is still frustrating to watch. Twice in the first half, the Bears went more than 5 minutes without scoring, and they did it again near the end of the game while giving up the bulk of a 10-point lead. To me, this can be directly tied to a lack of motion from the off the ball and some lackluster passing. At times against South Carolina, the Bears passed just to pass the ball, rather than passing with a purpose. With two point guards on the floor and an excellent passer in Royce O’Neale, this should not happen. The movement has to get better off the ball, and it should with time.
5. Who is the Go-To-Guy? Yes, I said earlier that Kenny Chery is the Bears key player in terms of success. However, I don’t know if it is exactly the best idea for him to lead the Bears in shots taken. He had 16 today, 7 more than any other Bear. That is probably too many for your point guard to take. Chery is not a great penetrator. He is better in the mid-range area than he is finishing closer to the rim. When the Bears needed a basket, they struggled to find the right shot-taker. On the Bears biggest possession of the game (Up 3 with 1 minute to go), it was Chery who dominated the ball and wiggled his way into the middle of the lane for a jumper.
It was a good look that missed. Luckily, Jonathan Motley was there to tip it in and give the Bears a safer lead. In the first half, Deng Deng came through several times to stop scoring droughts, and his creativity on offense is something the Bears need. Could Taurean Prince or even Lester Medford, who are two of the better shot-creators on the Bears, be good options? I don’t know, but it is a big question the Bears will have to answer as the year goes on.
Key Stats of the Game
-18 of Kenny Chery’s 20 points came after halftime
-The Bears made 18 of their first 20 free throws and finished 21-26 for the game
-Baylor opened the game making just 1 of their first 10 3-pointers. After that though, they made 5 of their next 8
-Rico Gathers played 19 minutes and did not collect a rebound
-Lester Medford continued his hot start from behind the arc, making 2 of his 3 shots behind the 3-point line
-Newcomers scored 26 of Baylor's 30 first-half points (87%), but the returning players combined for 30 of the Bears' 39 second-half points (77%).
Player of the Game
Jonathan Motley – 17 points, 5 rebounds
The redshirt freshman has made a big splash so far in 2014, and had a very good game against a big South Carolina front line. He displayed some better patience in the low post, battled for position and even had some nice face-up moves from the top of the key. Motley also did a solid job on defense and was tied for 2nd on the team with 5 rebounds. The young post player has displayed a much more refined game than expected.