WACO, Texas (AP) — Pierre Jackson and the 19th-ranked Baylor Bears are doing OK so far without the three post players they lost to the NBA.
They have some talented freshmen around Jackson, the senior point guard who was the preseason Big 12 player of the year. Plus, 6-9 junior forward Cory Jefferson is thriving in his role as a starter.
Jackson had 25 points and seven assists while Jefferson added 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots for the Bears in a 78-47 victory over Jackson State on Sunday.
With 7-foot-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin out because of a sprained right ankle sustained after scoring 22 points in 17 minutes in the opener two days earlier, freshman post players Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince had 13 points each against Jackson State.
Gathers, making his first start with Austin out, also had 10 rebounds.
"Yeah, Rico stepped up. I honestly didn't know he was starting. You didn't either?," said Jackson, looking at Gathers for the affirmative response. "It took him by surprise, but he made the best of it and went out there and got a double-double."
Jackson scored the game's first five points — on a free throw, a jumper and a tip-in in the first 3 minutes — and the Bears (2-0) never trailed.
Jeff Stubbs had 15 points to lead Jackson State, the Southwestern Athletic Conference team from Mississippi playing its season opener. Willie Readus had 11 points.
Before the game, Baylor unveiled a banner for its NCAA regional final appearance last season. The Bears had a school-record 30 victories last season while advancing to a regional final for the second time in three years.
The Bears lost four post players from last year's team, including three NBA-drafted players — Quincy Acy and underclassmen Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller.
Then even without Austin, the Bears dominated in the paint again against Jackson State.
The Bears scored 54 of their points inside, including more dunks by Jefferson, who had nine in the opener after waiting his turn to start behind the pro prospects.
"Cory is somebody that we expect a lot of. He's been here for a while. He's learned from some outstanding players," Drew said. "It's his turn to lead now. He's doing it by example. We haven't given him a lot of rest. He's been able to sustain his energy level and really provide that defensive presence, and on the offensive end, he's been very efficient."