Lecomte, Baylor look to slow down Va. Commonwealth
Baylor became one of the first teams this season to enter the Top 25 by virtue of a credible victory, with the Bears having defeated then-No. 4 Oregon last week.
Virginia Commonwealth would like to follow that same script into the Top 25 next week.
Rankings aside, Baylor (3-0) and VCU (3-0) will look across the court at a quality opponent on Wednesday when they face each other at the Battle 4 Atlantis at 2:30 p.m. ET in Nassau, Bahamas.
Baylor showed off a couple of new weapons in its 66-49 win over Oregon. Junior guard Manu Lecomte, a transfer from Miami, scored 18 points and dished out seven assists, and junior college transfer Jo Lual-Acuil scored eight points, blocked seven shots and grabbed 14 rebounds.
Those two players, as much as the impressive victory over the Ducks, captured the attention of the college basketball world – including VCU coach Will Wade.
“Baylor is very, very talented,” Wade said. “I don't think a lot of people knew how good Manu Lecomte was going to be for them. Baylor's a good team. That was no fluke. They beat Oregon pretty good.”
On the flip side, Baylor coach Scott Drew knows the Rams won't be star struck.
VCU is accustomed to playing top-notch nonconference competition and has the March Madness credibility in recent years to match just about anyone in college basketball.
Last season, the Rams advanced a round farther than Baylor as VCU defeated seventh-seeded Oregon State in the opening round. Then the Rams pushed Final Four-bound Oklahoma for 40 minutes before the Sooners escaped Oklahoma City with a four-point win.
“This is a team that is very competitive, great tradition, been in the NCAA Tournament six straight years,” Drew said. “So, a team that's used to being successful, used to winning.”
While Baylor is mixing its new standouts with quality veterans, VCU rolls with many of the same faces that helped the Rams win 25 games a year ago. Seniors Mo Allie-Cox, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess and Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed, and junior Justin Tillman played leading roles last season and are back for more.
Those players and new additions give VCU the depth that concerns Drew.
“They play extremely hard, play 10 guys, lot of pressure man-to-man, very physical team,” Drew said.
But this won't be Baylor's first go-round this season with a tough opponent.
Wade has seen how much trouble the Bears' zone defense gave Oregon. It's easy to see how. Lual-Acuil (7-foot), forward Johnathan Motley (6-10) and reserve Terry Maston (6-8) thrive on swatting away shots in the lane.
“Their length will be a major, major issue for us,” Wade said. “We haven't seen length like this since we played maybe Florida State last year. They've got just about everything you want in a good basketball team. It will be a challenge.”
Whoever survives Wednesday's game will go back for a second helping of top-level competition on Thanksgiving Day. The Baylor-VCU winner meets the No. 24 Michigan State vs. St. John's winner.