Baylor's Big Men Take Center Stage in Win over Lehigh

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23:  Cory Jefferson #34 of the Baylor Bears reacts with teammates in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Going into Friday's season opener between the Lehigh Mountain Hawks and the 19th ranked Baylor Bears, the focus was on the starting point guards for both teams.

After the final buzzer sounded and Baylor came out 99-77 winners, the focus was on the trio of big men in the paint for the Bears.

The Bears front line was lead by junior forward Cory Jefferson, who recorded a double-double with a team-high in points, 26, and rebounds, 14.

Jefferson scored 18 of his 26 points in one of the most exciting ways possible, through nine dunks.

Adding to the reloaded squad up front for coach Scott Drew was freshman Isaiah Austin, who scored 22 points in his debut before going out with an ankle injury early in the second half.

Austin came back out to the bench late in the second half in good spirits, but no announcement was made on the severity of his injury.

Jefferson and Austin were also joined by freshman Rico Gathers as the players who impressed in their first game, replacing the departed trio of Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III.

While his numbers in the box score may not show it, Gathers was a force inside the paint against the weakened lineup that Lehigh brought into the Ferrell Center. Star senior Gabe Knutson missed the game due to an injury.

The guards on show Friday night in Waco did not just sit back and watch the big men shine, they put on a show as well.

Baylor's senior point guard, Pierre Jackson, was the maestro in the backcourt with 12 assists, a number which was only two less than his point total of 14.

The point guard for the visitors was even better as Lehigh senior C.J. McCollum scored almost of half of his team's points with a game-high 36.

With a healthy Knutson in the lineup, McCollum will not have to put the team on his back as much during the slate of non-conference games and heading into Patriot League play in January.

Both teams only have a few days to rest before their next games. Baylor hosts Jackson State at the Ferrell Center on Sunday, while Lehigh will play their first game in the Preseason NIT in Pittsburgh against Robert Morris on Monday.