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CANADIAN CONNECTION Guards Lift Bears to 87-68 Win Over UL-Lafayette

Nov. 18, 2013

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

While Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip were still in their Baylor uniforms and waiting to shower, point guard Kenny Chery showed up for Sunday's postgame press conference looking like he was ready for a job interview.

Decked out in suit pants and a spiffy vest with a bow tie, Chery was definitely dressed to impress.

"I've never seen a player look this good, ever, in my career here," Heslip said of his fellow Canadian. "I'm proud to say he's Canadian, too, because he looks good."

On the court, Baylor's Canadian connections both impressed, combining for four 3-pointers and 39 points in the 23rd-ranked Bears' 87-68 win over Louisiana-Lafayette before a crowd of 5,290 at the Ferrell Center.

"I'm definitely feeling more comfortable," said Chery, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard from Montreal who transferred from State Fair (Mo.) Community College. "The first two games, it was just about adjusting to the team, adjusting to the new level. It's totally different from junior college. So, I'm just going to keep working and adjusting to Isaiah and Cory (Jefferson) and Brady and all those new guys I'm playing with. It's so many weapons."

The fact that two of the Bears' top weapons are from Canada wasn't lost on Baylor coach Scott Drew, who said Athletic Director Ian McCaw and Executive Associate AD Doug Smith - native Canadians - are "doing a good job for us over there."

Chery had big shoes to fill, replacing Pierre Jackson, an All-Big 12 guard who led the league in scoring and assists while leading the Bears to the NIT championship last season after an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight run the year before.

"Kenny played a tremendous game," Drew said. "Since Day 1, he's been very diligent and coachable. He doesn't try to do too much and has been a great teammate. It's hard to go 7-for-10 with 20 points, four assists and zero turnovers, but he's been very good in practice and we felt comfortable that he was going to be successful."

Using a matchup zone almost exclusively, the Bears (3-0) also got the job done defensively, holding the visiting Ragin' Cajuns to 34.3 percent shooting from the field. Junior point guard Elfrid Payton came in averaging 23.3 points and finished with 20, but was just 6-of-19 shooting overall and 1-of-3 from outside the arc.

"The whole key to the game was to keep him out of the paint," Heslip said of Payton, "because when he got in the paint, he was kicking out for open shots, and he was finishing. We knew he was the motor of that team, so the whole focus was keeping him out of the paint. I think the zone did that, especially in the first half."

Payton did help ULL (2-2) jump out to a 9-3 lead, burying a 3-pointer himself and feeding Kevin Brown and Steven Wronkoski for two of his game-high seven assists. But the Bears answered with a 13-2 run that included Chery passing to Jefferson for a dunk and then nailing a 3-pointer from the wing.

With the Ragin' Cajuns' inside duo of Shawn Long and JJ Davenport both picking up three fouls in the first half, Baylor was able to start pulling away and took a 33-22 lead into the locker room when Gary Franklin buried a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the half.

"We're not as deep in that position as we need to be, and it showed," said ULL coach Bob Marlin. "It affected Shawn, for sure. I think he's the best inside guy on the floor that was out there, and I think Baylor has a couple good ones. But he's a really talented young man, and he got a little frustrated today. . . . But it does affect your team to a certain point, because we know we have to have him in the game to have a chance to win a game like this."

Long and Payton both got it going early in the second half, scoring eight of their team's first 16 points, as the Ragin' Cajuns pulled within 43-38 on a driving layup by Payton at the 14:27 mark.

But Heslip knocked down a pair of free throws and drove inside for a layup that got the lead back to double digits. More of a spot-up shooter when he first got to Baylor, the 6-2 senior guard from Burlington, Ontario, has become more adept at taking the ball off the bounce and driving inside.

"I was doing that a lot with the national team," said Heslip, who played for the Canadian Development squad at the World University Games before getting promoted to the Senior Men's team for the FIBA Americas Championship. "And the main thing was I was getting to the free-throw line. The first two games, they were giving me (3-pointers), and I'll take the 3's. But today, they were playing me real tight, and I couldn't get loose too much. So, I was able to get in the lane a little bit."

Payton said the Ragin' Cajuns wanted to force Heslip to drive, "but he got going with the three, and we got a little over aggressive, and that opened up some lanes."

"But we, as a team, have to do better at keeping people out of the paint. There's no reason why he should have got to the lane, and he finished a few."

Marlin said Heslip is a "smart player" that "plays well off the ball."

"He took his time, he made a three and then drove to the middle," Marlin said. "Their guards beat our guards to the middle all game long. And that creates easy basket opportunities for Jefferson. We didn't do a good job defending the guards at all, but Heslip is a good player. He's a smart player, he knows how to play, and I think he's going to have a great year."

ULL made it a 10-point game with just under three minutes to play, but the Bears closed on a 10-2 run that included exclamation-point dunks from Jefferson and Rico Gathers.

Jefferson posted his second straight double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, while Austin had a solid all-around game with eight points, six boards and a career-high eight blocks.

"I was just trying to play up tall," said Austin, who credited the zone for giving him more chances. "We run it every day in practice, so our guys are used to our assignments. And that's what we were doing: flying around, tipping loose balls, rebounding. Everybody was blocking out. We played well tonight."

With the Baylor bench outscoring the ULL subs, 36-13, the Bears got nine points, five boards and three steals out of Gathers and four points, five rebounds and a team-high six assists from Royce O'Neal.

"Royce does all the little things," Drew said.

After missing 19 of 41 free throws in last Tuesday's 66-64 win over South Carolina, the Bears made 20 of their last 22 from the line in Sunday's game and 77.8 percent overall (28-of-36).

"I told you the first game, something was just off," said Heslip, who was 7-of-7 from the line after missing his first three against South Carolina. "Maybe it was just the first time shooting free throws all year."

Baylor wraps up the three-game home stand with a 6 p.m. matchup Wednesday against Charleston Southern (2-2), which fell at 22nd-ranked New Mexico, 109-93, on Sunday.

Here is a link to the boxscore from Sunday's Baylor-Lafayette men's basketball game.