PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Baylor couldn't get Johnathan Motley going early, Manu Lecomte was fighting his shot and the 20th-ranked Bears found themselves trailing for one of the few times this season. Their response? Cut down on turnovers, frustrate VCU defensively and grind out the tough baskets, a formula that helped Baylor hold off the Rams 71-63 on Wednesday in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Baylor couldn't get Johnathan Motley going early, Manu Lecomte was fighting his shot and the 20th-ranked Bears found themselves trailing for one of the few times this season.
Their response? Cut down on turnovers, frustrate VCU defensively and grind out the tough baskets, a formula that helped Baylor hold off the Rams 71-63 on Wednesday in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
"When you're shooting well and the game's coming easy on the offensive end, it's easy to have that carry over on the defensive end," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "It takes the mentally tough players when they're not making shots they normally make to make sure it doesn't carry over and affect that on the defensive end."
Motley scored 14 of his 19 points after halftime. Al Freeman scored 15 points, hitting three baskets during a critical second-half sequence for the Bears (4-0).
In addition, Lecomte shook off a rough shooting game to finish with 16 points, including a hanging layup while being knocked to the ground for a three-point play to go with several key free throws in the final minute.
"You needed toughness to play in this type of game," Freeman said.
JeQuan Lewis had 21 points for the Rams (3-1). They went without a basket for roughly 6 1/2 minutes during the second half.
VCU used a late-half burst to lead 36-28 at the break and shot 58 percent in the opening half, but it cooled in the second half as the Bears' defense tightened. VCU shot just 35 percent after halftime.
"I think we played really well for about 25 minutes," VCU coach Will Wade said. "It got away from us the last 15 minutes."
VCU: The Rams just couldn't find someone to step up and make a big basket as the empty possessions mounted during the critical second-half stretch. That included a run of six straight misses with a few turnovers during that field-goal drought.
"We have to play a full, complete game to be beat the best teams on our schedule," Wade said. "We weren't able to do that today."
Baylor: Drew could at least feel good about his team's response after falling behind late in the opening half and then trailing through the first 9 minutes of the second half, especially with how it had just five second-half turnovers after committing 11 in the first 20 minutes. Baylor had led for 94 percent of game time through its first three games.
"I liked the way we fought back," Motley said.
The Bears entered the AP Top 25 this week after upsetting Oregon at home last week. Baylor could only help its standing in the three-games-in-three-days event, especially with No. 10 Louisville and No. 24 Michigan State lurking in the bracket.
Lecomte had made just 2 of 11 shots before that three-point play with 51.1 seconds left.
He also went 10 of 11 from the line, including a 7-for-7 effort in the final minute.
"I was struggling shooting so my job was just to find the hot man ... and they did a great job finishing," he said.
Freeman, a 6-foot-3 junior from Charlotte, North Carolina, hit a driving shot then followed with a big 3-pointer off a crosscourt feed. His third big basket came when he drove by Jordan Burgess for a score to push the lead to 60-53 with 3:07 left.
— Aaron Beard (@aaronbeardap) November 23, 2016
VCU: The Rams will play St. John's, which lost to Michigan State, on Thursday on Day 2 of the three-day tournament.
Baylor: The Bears will play No. 24 Michigan State in the semifinals on Thursday.
This story has been corrected to show the first name of Motley is Johnathan, not Jonathan.
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