Walter Makes History in No. 20 Baylor MBB’s 88-82 Win Over Auburn

Ja'Kobe Walter for No. 20 Baylor
Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

Coming off a 23-11 2022-23 season that saw the Baylor Men’s Basketball team exit from the NCAA Tournament in the second round for the second consecutive year, the No. 20 Bears (1-0) earned a dazzling debut victory over Auburn (0-1), 88-82. In a difficult March Madness-level match up against Bruce Pearl’s proficient Tigers in South Dakota, Baylor freshman G Ja’Kobe Walter stunned fans and opponents alike in a program record-setting performance. Walter was ranked 17th in the ESPN 100 for 2023 and listed as the second best player in Texas, but the Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year couldn’t have offered a more thrilling production for the No. 20 Bears, recording a team-high 28 points shooting 53.8% (7-13) of field goals, 57.1% (4-7) of 3s, and 100% (10-10) of free throws. In his collegiate inauguration, Walter set the most points by a freshman in their debut in program history. Baylor, despite being ranked at No. 20 and taking on an unranked Auburn (who executed like a top 25 team), returned only one previous starter in F Jalen Bridges and filled in the other starting positions with F Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua along with transfers and a freshman (Walter). No. 20 Baylor came out hot to start the game, leading Auburn for the first 5 minutes of play and trading the lead only twice before regaining control until 7:39 left in the first half with the Tigers stealing the ball and nailing a field goal on the turnover. Auburn continued their scoring drive throughout the remaining first half as the Bears struggled to hit any type of field goal—even simple layups—and wrestling with fouls and turnovers. By the end of the first half, Auburn led 43-34 on quick rebounds and second chances. The No. 20 Bears attempted another quick start to the second half and saw more shots falling, but the Tigers continued to build on their lead, not relinquishing up to a 6 point lead until 5 minutes left in the second. And while Walter was the obvious star of the game with almost double the amount of points as the Bears’ next highest scorer in transfer G RayJ Dennis who had 15 on 60% (6-10) of field goals, 100% (1-1) of 3s, and 100% (2-2) of free throws, fans watched Baylor’s new team find rhythm and chemistry in real time. Dennis gained capacity at the PG position; freshman C Yves Missi standing at 7 ft tall stole the show with a steal turned into a dunk in the second half; and athletes like starting F Bridges, transfer junior G Jayden Nunn, and redshirt sophomore G Langston Love found their footing in this new lineup. Following Dennis, Baylor had 3 other players score in double digits: Bridges with 13 points on 40% (4-10) of field goals, 33.3% (2-6) of 3s, and 60% (3-5) of free throws with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals; Missi had 10 points on 60% (3-5) of field goals, 66.7% (4-6) of free throws with 2 steals; and Love who had 10 points on 33.3% (3-9) of field goals, 50% (2-4) of 3s, and 66.7% (2-3) of free throws with 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. The No. 20 Bears shot 43.3% (26-60) of field goals, 47.4% (9-19) of 3s, and 79.4% (27-34) of free throws.