Baylor's Austin Clark issued a challenge to his Red Raider basketball team before Tuesday night's game with the Bradley Bears and they responded in a positive fashion.
Whatever the veteran coach had to say may never be revealed, but he pushed all the right buttons and he made all the right calls as his team improved to 3-2 with the balanced 69-44 victory over the Bears at Baylor's Jimmy Duke Arena.
The Bears entered the contest at 5-5, but had surprised District 5-AAA favorite Ooltewah one day last week, so Clark was well aware that Bradley had the potential to play pretty good basketball.
It didn't happen against Baylor.
With four of Baylor's five starters scoring in double figures, the Red Raiders led from the opening whistle.
Consecutive 3s from Matt Clendenen, Amaded Giussani and Gage Upshaw allowed Baylor to bolt to a 9-2 lead in the first half of the first quarter and the Bears played catch up the rest of the evening.
Cole Copeland scored on a layup in the final minute as the Bears got to within 13-9 when the quarter ended, but another 3 by Giussani to open the second period allowed Baylor's lead to stretch to 32-20 by halftime and it never got much closer.
Bradley McCurdy scored on a drive down the lane to open the second half as Bradley got to within 10, but 10 unanswered points by the Red Raiders doubled the lead and the possibility of a Bradley comeback was all but eliminated.
Tyler Seaberg canned a pair of free throws with 20 seconds to play as Baylor enjoyed its biggest lead of the game at the end.
The Baylor coach appeared to be happy with what he saw.
"This is only our fiffh game of the year and we knew what Bradley was capable of doing, so I challenged my guys to come out and play hard. That's exactly what we did," he said in the friendly confines of the Baylor equipment room afterward.
"We have a lot of options, but I'm really proud of the way we shot the ball tonight. When we get our feet set, we have some guys who can score, but we have a lot of team speed and I thought we shared it well tonight.
"We really don't care who scores, but our team defense was excellent as well. As a coach, I'm never totally satisfied with the way we played, but I'm excited about the steps we took tonight toward being a pretty good basketball team. It's a long road," the Baylor coach concluded.
Bradley coach Chuck Clark certainly didn't fault the effort from his team.
"We knew they were long and athletic and they will be a great team by the end of the season," the first-year Bradley head man said matter of factly afterward.
"We were hoping to play a faster pace, but when they started hitting all of those threes, we had to gamble more on defense and we got burned. I have never questioned the effort of my guys and they played with a lot of heart and intensity tonight as they don't know the meaning of the word quit.
"But we don't always play smart. Tonight Baylor took advantage of our mistakes and they were the better team, but we'll play them in a couple of weeks at our place. Tonight was their night," he nodded.
Giussani naied five 3s for the game and finished with a game-high 19 points while Clendenen was next with 18. Sammy Lupas and Upshaw were next with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Taylor Bentley was tops for Bradley with 11 points. Logan Cox and Daniel Clark both followed with eight points apiece.
Baylor won the rebound battle, 27-19, with Clendenen grabbing seven and Lupas five. Clark snagged five for the Bears.
BRADLEY GIRLS 57, BAYLOR 39: The Lady Red Raiders jumped out to a 9-2 lead at the start and still had a 9-6 lead when the first quarter ended, but the Bearettes got warmed up in the second stanza to lead for the first time and they never looked back.
The Bearettes, perhaps the best girls team in the area, took advantage of a definite height advantage with Brooke Copeland scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds to lead the offense as Bradley won for the ninth time in 11 games.
Copeland didn't start and sat on the bench for the first four minutes while Baylor built that early lead, but once she hit the floor, the tide started to turn.
Baylor tried every thing within the rules to stop Bradley's inside game, but nothing seemed to work.
Rebecca Reuter, Bradley's other big girl, was next with 10 points and a dozen rebounds. Emma Kate Brown followed with nine.
Abby Hubert was tops for Baylor with 11 points while Kaleigh Clemons finished with seven.
BRADLEY 6 14 21 16 -- 57
BAYLOR 9 5 14 11 -- 39
BRADLEY (57) -- Reuter 10, Copeland 25, Davis 2, Delane, Stallings 3, Summars 2, Gaither, K. Brown, E. Brown 9, Hughes 6, McRee.
BAYLOR (39) -- Clemons 7, Waterburg 1, Huckabay 2, Cornell, Hubert 11, Birdsong 2, Looper 1, Smith 4, Long 4, Popp 5, Blackmon, McMahan 4, Goodner.
3-POINT GOALS: Bradley 3 (Copeland, Stallings, E. Brown); Baylor 2 (Clemons, Hubert).
BRADLEY 9 11 13 11 -- 44
BAYLOR 13 19 18 19 -- 69
BRADLEY (44) -- Bentley 11, Cox 8, Crisp, McGowan, Gregory 2, Maroon 2, Clark 8, Morgan 6, McCurdy 2, Copeland 5.
BAYLOR (69) -- Clendenen 18, Giussani 19, Lupas 13, Upshaw 10, King 7, Maize, Brogdon, Seaberg 2, Strawter, Wu, Jump.
3-POINT GOALS: Bradley 4 (Bentley, Cox 2, Clark); Baylor 8 (Clendenen, Giussani 5, Upshaw 2).
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)