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No. 5 Baylor looks for another complete game vs. Norfolk State

Sportsnaut
Nov 7, 2022; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears guard LJ Cryer (4) makes a free throw against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor and Norfolk State met in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament with the top-seeded Bears rolling to an 85-49 victory.

The Spartans weren’t shy about playing a rematch, and they will get another shot at the Bears on Friday when they visit Waco, Texas.

Fifth-ranked Baylor (1-0) opened its season with a 117-53 rout of Mississippi Valley State on Monday. Norfolk State (2-0) trounced two Division III programs — 109-59 over Virginia-Lynchburg on Monday and 87-59 over Cairn University on Wednesday.

Bears star Adam Flagler scored 21 points, made four 3-pointers and handed out eight assists in the opener.

He wasn’t the least bit surprised that Baylor rolled up 117 points.

“There’s no ceiling,” Flagler said of the team’s offense. “We have so many guys that can do so many things on the court. But we pride ourselves on defense. And that was the biggest thing, holding them to as little as possible and just compete at a high level having the same old boring habits.”

The Bears limited Mississippi Valley to 32.7 percent shooting from the field and forced 25 turnovers.

“Playing the first game of the year, we wanted to start out the right way,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who began his 20th season with the school. “You score 117 points, I know people like scoring. A lot of positives, a lot of things to build on, great way to start the season.”

Five Bears joined Flagler in double digits. LJ Cryer scored 16 points, Dale Bonner tallied 14 and Keyonte George, Jalen Bridges and Langston Love each had 13.

George added seven assists and six rebounds while committing just one turnover in 28 minutes. However, the freshman billed as the top recruit in Baylor history shot just 4 of 13 in his collegiate debut.

“Keyonte is somebody that sees the floor really well and is becoming more and more consistent with it as well,” Drew said. “His ability to get his teammates shots is tremendous.”

Flo Thamba grabbed 10 rebounds to help Baylor hold a 53-29 edge on the boards.

Norfolk State won the MEAC postseason tournament to make the NCAA field last season and is the preseason favorite to win the league again this campaign.

The Spartans toughened up their schedule as they will visit three Top 10 teams in November. The others are No. 8 UCLA on Monday and No. 3 Houston on Nov. 29.

Norfolk State’s top player is guard Joe Bryant Jr., who won MEAC Player of the Year honors last season when he averaged 16.7 points per game.

“Joe has trimmed down some this year so he can really show off his athleticism even more,” Spartans coach Robert Jones said recently. “We’re excited to see how that new body makeup plays out during the season. But our team around him is really strong, so Joe doesn’t have to do it all by himself.”

Bryant is averaging 14 points and 3.5 assists. Kris Bankston is a stellar 15 of 19 from the floor while leading the club with averages of 16 points, 12.5 rebounds and three blocks.

Norfolk State outrebounded its first two opponents by an average of 20.5 boards per game.

Baylor is 3-0 against Norfolk State, also winning one-sided contests during the 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons.

–Field Level Media