The 19th-ranked Baylor Bears are back in action for the second time in three days as they contend with the Jackson State Tigers in non-conference play at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor, which lost to eventual NCAA Tournament champion Kentucky (82-70) to close out a 2011-12 campaign in which it delivered a 30-8 mark overall and was tied for third in the Big 12 Conference standings with a record o 12-6, tipped off this new season on a high note Friday by taking down Lehigh in a 99-77 decision.
As for the Tigers, members of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, they are just now kicking off their schedule after winning a total of only seven games all of last season. A mere 5-13 in conference play, the team won non- conference bouts versus the likes of SMU and Concordia-Selma and was just 2-16 in true road dates.
The teams matched up last season early on as well, with the Bears crushing Jackson State in a 92-59 final at home. With the victory, Baylor now owns a 5-0 advantage in the all-time series.
The Tigers may have four returning starters from a year ago, but the proposed starting five this time around is severely under-sized, with forward Sydney Coleman maxing out at 6-7. Now entering his 10th season with the program, head coach Tevester Anderson has a host of issues facing him right out of the gate, the least of which is taking on Baylor in enemy territory. Injuries took their toll last season as a number of top scorers missed significant playing time, one of those being senior guard Christian Williams who is back in the starting lineup for the opener after producing a decent 11.0 ppg a year ago. Kelsey Howard is also ready to answer the call after he posted 14.6 ppg as one of the more consistent performers on the roster, yet he and Williams both shot under 39 percent from the floor and that's why the entire group was down at 38.1 percent for the year.
Taking out Lehigh, an upstart squad that actually defeated Duke in the NCAA Tournament last year, didn't appear to be too difficult for the Bears on Friday, but the squad did suffer a blow as Isaiah Austin suffering a sprained right ankle. Austin, considered one of the top freshmen in the nation, managed to produce 22 points in just 17 minutes of action for Baylor, showing his diverse ability with both a trio of dunks and a couple of three-point conversions. Cory Jefferson had a huge outing as he recorded a double-double with 26 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Pierre Jackson had a double- double of his own with 14 points and 12 assists, the latter being three more than the Mountain Hawks had total. Against one of the top players in the nation in Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, the Bears held the star guard to 14-of-32 shooting from the floor, but still the Patriot League standout posted a game- high 36 points.