Texas State welcomes shorter trip to No. 24 Baylor

NCAA Basketball
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The 2019-20 season is in just its second week, but opponents Texas State and No. 24-ranked Baylor meet Friday in Waco, Texas, having already logged considerable travel.

Baylor (1-1) is playing its first game since dropping a 67-64 decision to Washington in Anchorage, Alaska, on Nov. 8. The Bears led that one almost for the duration after making the 10-plus-hour trip, but scored just one point in the final 5:38.

“We really struggled to score,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said afterward, per the Waco Tribune. “When the (3-point shots) start to dry up, you’ve got to get second-chance points, and we only had two.”

Baylor’s 8-of-21 3-point shooting against Washington was a dramatic departure from the 18-of-33 shooting the Bears had in a season-opening rout of Central Arkansas.

A cold second half from behind the arc mirrored the woes vexing Baylor’s Friday night opponent in its one loss this season.

Texas State (2-1) went 3-of-18 from deep, compounding a 10-of-20 performance from the free-throw line in a 78-71 loss at Air Force last Saturday. A lengthy trek to Colorado Springs preceded the Bobcats’ shooting woes.

“When you go to Air Force, and you get up at 5:30 in the morning, and you catch a plane to Dallas,” said Texas State coach Danny Kaspar in his press conference following a win over Prairie View A&M on Tuesday. “You wait two hours, then you catch another plane to Colorado Springs, and now you’re in rarefied air. Then we play the next day, And our guys, I don’t think, were quite ready to play that game.”

Texas State bookended the loss at Air Force with home wins over Texas Lutheran and last season’s Southwest Athletic Conference NCAA Tournament representative, Prairie View A&M.

Senior guard Nijal Pearson scored 19 and 23 respectively in the Bobcats’ wins, and 14 at Air Force. Pearson is Texas State’s most potent scorer, and has been since his freshman season. His per-game averages climbed from 13.3 in 2016-17, to 15.2 in 2017-18, and 16.4 a season ago.

Pearson earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference recognition a season ago.

With about 130 miles separating San Marcos and Waco, travel figures to have less of an impact on the Bobcats’ performance Friday. For Baylor, it’s the first home game since the Bears ushered in the season with the first Division I game of 2019-20 on Nov. 5.

The Bears shot the lights out in that one, paced by Jared Butler’s 30 points. Butler again led the Bears with 18 points against Washington, and accounted for half of the team’s 3-pointers.

His teammate on the interior and preseason All-Big 12 Conference honoree Tristan Clark is still working his way back to peak production, coming off a knee injury sustained in January.

Clark scored three points against Central Arkansas and seven vs. Washington, yielding much of the inside scoring responsibility to Freddie Gillespie. Gillespie is coming off 11 points and 10 rebounds in Alaska, after putting up 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor in the opener.

–Field Level Media

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