WACO, Texas (AP)Baylor coach Scott Drew crowed about the special guest he decided to bring to the meeting with reporters after a season-opening win that was really more about celebrating the Bears’ first national championship.
”Coach Teague,” he called MaCio Teague, one of the three guards who played key roles in the run to the title last spring.
Of course, Drew wanted his former player to take the first question – and it wasn’t about coaching or Baylor’s 87-60 victory over Incarnate Word on Friday night. It was about being in the building to revel one more time in the championship that was capped by an 86-70 victory over previously undefeated Gonzaga in Indianapolis.
”It was incredible,” said Teague, who took his ring out of the case and displayed it while talking to reporters. ”Just being around the guys, the family environment, that I’ve been around for the past three years. So I enjoyed being a former player.”
Teague missed the pregame ring and banner ceremony because he was trying to get back to his old campus from Utah, where he’s playing on the G League team for the NBA’s Jazz. He received his ring during a timeout in the first half, and put it on to a roar from the crowd of 8,895 at the 10,284-seat Ferrell Center.
Matthew Mayer and LJ Cryer were also in the building, and walked the carpet leading out of the tunnel near the Baylor locker room to get their rings from athletic director Mack Rhodes before Mayer scored 14 points and Cryer added 13.
Heralded freshman Kendall Brown watched it all before debuting with 13 points. Same with senior transfer James Akinjo, who was the leading scorer for Arizona last year and had 10 points and a game-high six assists on Friday.
”It was great,” Akinjo said. ”I’ve been talking to all the guys from last year, and I feel like I know them, like I was on our team. It was really cool seeing them get recognized for what they did, and it was also real motivating.”
Josh Morgan scored 17 points and RJ Glasper added 16 for the Cardinals (0-2), who opened with a loss at home to Texas State.
The celebration didn’t include the two guards who played the biggest parts in the title run: All-American Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, both now in the NBA.
And early on in the game, Baylor showed has some work to do to replace them and Teague. A cold-shooting start kept Baylor (1-0) from going ahead for good until a stretch when Cryer scored eight consecutive points, with the second of his back-to-back 3-pointers giving the Bears a 24-22 lead with 7:17 left in the first half.
Jeremy Sochan, a freshman from England, scored the first six points and eight overall on an 11-2 Baylor run to finish the first half for a 40-28 lead at the break. He scored all 10 of his points before halftime.
”I thought our guys really battled, probably only two or three stretches where it got a little loose,” Incarnate Word coach Carson Cunningham said. ”That’s really what gave them the real separation. They were creating separation, but that allowed them to really kind of widen it out.”
Incarnate Word: The Cardinals led by six points twice early and stayed close for most of the first half with some help from solid 3-point shooting that stayed with them most of the way. Incarnate Word cooled off late, finishing 9 of 22 (41%). Benjamin Griscti, who scored 11 points, was 3 of 8 from deep.
Baylor: The newcomer combo of Akinjo and Brown gave the crowd a thrill. Akinjo lifted a pass in transition near the basket for a one-handed alley-oop dunk from the trailing Brown, who combined with fellow freshman Sochan to go 10 of 15 from the field.
The banner was already hanging from the rafters. The ceremony ended after a black covering was pulled to reveal the Final Four logo with ”Baylor men’s basketball” above and ”national champions” below. It’s on the opposite end of the arena from the three championship banners for the Baylor women.
Incarnate Word: Plays Concordia (Texas) at home Tuesday before another Big 12 matchup against Texas Tech on Nov. 20.
Baylor: Hosts Nicholls State, which is in the Southland Conference with Incarnate Word, on Monday in the second of four consecutive home games.
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