Baylor looks to avoid upset against Southern

WACO, Texas — Baylor has shown resiliency while facing multiple obstacles throughout its nonconference schedule the last six weeks.

The 18th-ranked Bears were thinned out by injuries before the season began and got thinner when forward Terry Maston suffered a broken hand in a late-November loss at Xavier. But Baylor (9-2) still managed to post decent wins against Wisconsin and Creighton and battled in defeats against Xavier and Wichita State.

In the last week, Baylor essentially used a seven-man rotation to ease past Texas Southern and Savannah State. The Bears will try to do the same thing Wednesday night when they host Southern (3-8) at Ferrell Center.

Baylor’s contest with Southern marks the third game the Bears will have played against a SWAC opponent this season. Baylor defeated Alcorn State 78-61 in mid-November and Texas Southern 99-68 last week.

The Jaguars come into Waco riding the momentum of a 68-50 victory over Florida A&M last week. Southern trailed the Rattlers at halftime, then went on a 21-1 run down the stretch to grab the victory at home.

“You could really feel the atmosphere of the crowd a little bit at times,” Southern coach Morris Scott said, according to The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. “I thought the guys fed off that a lot.”

Forward Sidney Umude scored eight points to fuel the decisive spurt for the Jaguars.

Umude, playing in his first game of the season for Southern, came off the bench to lead the Jaguars with 14 points, and Southern forward Emanual Shepherd notched a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Florida A&M.

Baylor’s victory over Savannah State also featured a double-double as 7-foot forward Jo Lual-Acuil scored 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds against the undersized Savannah State squad.

Lual-Acuil, a native of Sudan, made the most of having his family in town for graduation. Lual-Acuil went through commencement ceremonies on Saturday and, as part of graduation, saw his parents and other relatives for the first time in more than four years.

“It was great, having a career high in points and rebounds in front of my family after not seeing them for a long time,” Lual-Acuil said. “It pretty much just caps off the week. I couldn’t have written it any better.”

Along with Lual-Acuil’s productive game against the Tigers, Baylor benefited from the continued offensive production of forward Nuni Omot.

After scoring 30 and 22 points in the previous two outings, Omot stayed hot with 18 points against Savannah State. Before he scored 30 against Randall on Dec. 9, Omot’s season high had been 15 on two occasions.

“Nuni continues to shoot the ball well and continues to take care of it passing it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “What I like is the seven rebounds (against Savannah State). Last game he was really good, but he only had two rebounds. So we need for him to get close to 10 every game, and he was able to focus on that more and do a better job there.”

The Bears will need Lual-Acuil and Omot to keep it up as they head into Big 12 play at the end of the month.

But Baylor deserves credit for posting 118 points in the win over Savannah State despite being limited to seven players.

“Let’s not give our guys excuses,” Drew said. “Let’s just say they got a good cardio workout today.”