The Baylor Bears defeated the Auburn Tigers, 88-82, in the season opener for both teams at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Tuesday.
The No. 20 Bears (1-0) went on a 19-7 run to end the game and steal a game in which they trailed for the majority. Ja’Kobe Walter scored 28 points to lead Baylor, while RayJ Dennis scored 15, Jalen Bridges scored 13, Langston Love scored 10 and Yves Miss scored 10.
The Tigers (0-1) led most of the way but lost an opener for the first time under coach Bruce Pearl. Aden Holloway led the Tigers with 19 points, while Johni Broome had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Denver Jones scored 13 points.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
Ja’Kobe Walter Looks Like That Dude
Baylor coach Scott Drew nailed down a tremendous recruiting class for this season, and some of it was on display on Tuesday. For instance, Yves Missi — who reclassified to join Baylor a year early — played 18 minutes and scored 10 points. Guard Miro Little got a little run, too.
But Ja’Kobe Walter, the centerpiece of the class, scored more points than any Baylor freshman has in their debut. He dumped in 28 points. He played like a junior, perhaps even a senior.
There was polish in how he handled the ball on the perimeter. His shot was fundamental and repeatable as he went 7-of-13 from the floor and connected on four 3-pointers. You can’t foul him because he went 10-for-10 at the stripe. He even grabbed six boards.
More than Keyonte George last year, Walter made this Baylor team his own right away. Yes, vets like Jalen Bridges and Langston Love had solid games and are significant pieces. But Walter made an immediate impression and impact on this team.
While Auburn held an edge in most major statistical categories after the first half, the game was basically even by game’s end, including field goal percentage and turnovers. The Bears managed to win because of that big run at the end of the game — and Walter was a part of that, too.
With all the new pieces, one could be excused for thinking that Baylor might need time to coalesce. The Bears looked further ahead than one had a right to expect on Tuesday.
Walter had a lot to do with that.
Broome and the T Explained
You probably saw Auburn’s Johni Broome called for a technical foul late in the game. It was after he committed his fifth foul. He clearly got in the face of a Baylor player, had some words to say and then walked away, but not before he also chatted with the official.
That is the definition of the technical foul you’re going to see this year in college basketball this year. At Big 12 media days officiating leadership said that officials are on the lookout for that sort of interaction between players and that if they see it they will call the technical.
They’re not looking to call techs for outward displays of emotion, like what you saw out of Auburn’s K.D. Johnson, who was visibly upset after being called for a blocking foul. His emotion wasn’t directed at another player, but one could see two of the officials close to calling him for a technical foul.
So that’s the line officials are supposed to walk this season — techs for trash talking directed at opponents but not techs for emotion displayed toward no one in particular. Let’s see if the officials stick to it.
Before the game, ESPN Central Texas radio host Matt Mosley posted this little nugget about how the Bears were approaching their season opener with Auburn:
.@BUDREW agreed with the Aggies and Zags not to share film of their closed scrimmages with anyone. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was complaining about this in Monday's media availability. Can't wait for 8 pm tonight @espn. This is a REAL game.— Matt Mosley (@mattmosley) November 7, 2023
A little gamesmanship from Drew? Love it.
Look, there are 30 games in the regular season and there’s only one shot to surprise the team you face first. I don’t blame Drew for holding back, even if trading tape is a tradition in basketball.
Would you have wanted to show off Walter before that game? Nah.iframe src=”https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1986400/1964875/” width=”510″ height=”500″ frameborder=”0″>
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.