No. 22 Baylor uses King to reign over Creighton
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baylor coach Scott Drew knows that his aces — Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. — will get most of the attention from opponents, but when one or the other isn’t clicking, it is nice to have a King in his hand.
King McClure scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half as No. 22 Baylor defeated Creighton 65-59 in the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday night at Sprint Center.
“We definitely needed somebody to step up,” Drew said. “(King) has done that before for us. What’s great is that his teammates have confidence in him. When he gets going, they do a great job of making sure he stays aggressive.
“People key on Jo and Manu, and he takes a back seat. We’re a lot better when we have more weapons.”
Lecomte was limited to nine points and two assists, but tournament MVP Lual-Acuil recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Bears (5-0). Terry Maston added 15 points and eight rebounds.
While the points and rebounds are nice, Drew counts on Lual-Acuil’s defense.
“Our defense starts with our center,” Drew said. “Jo is a great anchor to our defense. When we make mistakes, he erases them.”
After finally winning a tournament title in Sprint Center, where the Bears had lost four Big 12 championship games, Drew could laugh off the lack of points from Lecomte.
“If you had told me he had 12 assists, I would have felt better,” Drew said. “That’s what happens in multi-game tournaments, especially early in the year. They turn into battles of perseverance.”
The Bluejays controlled the first 30-plus minutes, but it came down to the final four minutes.
“Baylor made it a rock fight, and for the first 36 minutes, we won the rock fight,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “We just couldn’t finish.
“I told our team that over the course of the season you’re going to play great a third of the time and play OK a third of the time. You’re going to have a third of the games where something is not clicking. Tonight, we shot 5 of 30 for 3-point range. Our two best players were 3 of 19.
“If you had told me that going in, I would have told you we would get beat by 25. But we didn’t get beat by 25 because of the other things we did well. We competed on the glass. We executed a defensive game plan without any prep time.”
After Creighton grabbed its largest lead at 40-28, the Bears went on a 10-0 run. The Bluejays did not relinquish the lead until McClure’s bucket made it 52-50 with 3:34 left.
After Ronnie Harrell hit two free throws on the Bluejays’ next possession, Maston hit a 3-pointer to give Baylor the lead for good 55-52 with 2:01 to go.
Baylor’s length created problems for the Creighton offense, which shot 34.4 percent.
“I thought a lot of our looks were really good looks,” McDermott said. “We came into the game shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line. The last thing I’m going to do is tell my shooters to quit shooting. It will never come out of my mouth. The best shooters in the world make 40 percent of their threes, which means they miss six out of 10. You hope it doesn’t happen to everybody on the same night, but we struggled shooting as a whole.”
Creighton (4-1) was led by Khyri Thomas with 15 points. Marcus Foster added 12, Martin Krampelj had 11 and Ty-Shon Alexander finished with 10.
The Bluejays rode momentum from a raucous crowd to take control in the first half. Creighton led by as many as 10 points before claiming a 33-24 lead at halftime despite leading scorer Foster managing only two points in the first 16 minutes.
NOTES: Baylor F Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. was joined on the all-tournament team by Creighton’s Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. ... The Bears are 5-0 for the eighth time in the last 11 seasons. ... Baylor G Manu Lecomte had scored at least 17 points in each of the first four games this season.