WACO, Texas — Perry Jones III and his Baylor teammates needed a few minutes to get comfortable with each other on the court in his delayed season debut.
Once they did, Jones showed everybody why he was the preseason Big 12 player of the year.
Jones scored 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting with some high-flying plays and the seventh-ranked Bears overcame a sluggish start for a 90-54 victory Tuesday night. They wrapped up a season-opening six-game homestand undefeated.
Prairie View (2-6) jumped out to an 11-2 lead with freshman Montrael Scott making three 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes.
"Like anybody, your first game or your first time out there, I think (Jones) was just trying to fit in and being a little tentative. I thought we all were," coach Scott Drew said. "We were all over-passing and not being very aggressive. Prairie View knocked down some shots early and we dug a hole, but the good thing is as the game went on we got much better."
Jones, the 6-foot-11 sophomore, had to sit out the first five games to complete an NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits before he got to Baylor. His six-game penalty included the Bears' finale last season in the Big 12 tournament.
The Panthers scored the game's first eight points before Drew called a timeout. He had a message for Jones, who had been considered a potential NBA draft lottery pick last spring before deciding against being Baylor's first one-and-done player.
"Just be a beast. Just play like I know how to play and don't be nervous out there," said Jones, relaying what he was told during that first break. "Just play team ball and everything will click, and that's exactly what happened."
Jones finally took his first shot after that, making a jumper. Then after Scott's third 3-pointer, Baylor finally scored again on Fred Ellis' alley-oop to Jones, who came along the baseline for the slam.
"It's always good to have the young fella playing with me," said Quincy Acy, the senior who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. "He brings a different dimension to the game. He just changes the game in so many different ways."
The Bears went ahead to stay after Pierre Jackson's bounce pass to Jones for a one-handed slam dunk that made it 17-16 midway through the first half. That was part of 16 consecutive points by Baylor in a 4-minute spurt when Jones scored nine points.
Baylor has won all 42 games it has played against SWAC teams, including 12 against Prairie View (2-6). The Bears opened the season with consecutive wins over Texas Southern and Jackson State, also SWAC teams.
The Bears reached their highest AP ranking ever after winning their first five games without Jones, who as a freshman averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds while making 55 percent of his shots.
In his first game back, Jones had 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting by halftime.
"The guys made me comfortable," Jones said. "We came in a little sluggish at first, but we picked up the energy and it seemed to play just like it does in practice every day."
Jackson finished with 17 points and eight assists. Cory Jefferson had 12 points and Deuce Bello 10.
Quincy Miller, the 6-9 freshman forward who led Baylor in scoring with 15.2 points a game the first five games, sat out as a precaution after rolling his left ankle in practice over the weekend. He is expected to play Sunday at Northwestern, when the Bears play their first non-conference road game in nearly two years.
Scott had 14 points and Demondre Chapman had 13 for Prairie View, which played the sixth of seven straight road games since opening the season with consecutive victories at home.
Prairie View was up 16-13 on a 3-pointer by Ryan Gesiakowski.
Acy then scored with a strong inside move on a pass from Jackson to start the 16-0 run, before rebounds on three consecutive Prairie View misses that led to Baylor points. The first was Jackson's bounce-pass for Jones.
Anthony Jones then had a 3-pointer before Jackson flipped an overhand pass to Perry Jones streaking through the lane for another slam while being fouled before adding the free throw. By time Jones drove hard for a layup between two defenders and made another jumper, the Bears led 29-16.
That was a drastic change from Scott's 3-driven opening spurt.Comment on this story
"I came out in pregame getting loose, getting warmed up. And it was on," Scott said. "So I kept shooting."
Baylor was 1-of-7 shooting at the time, the only make by Jones.
"It was a little emotional. A couple of guys came close to home," coach Byron Rimm said. "Our freshman did a good job, stepped out and knocked down the first three 3s. ... It's a 40-minute game. You can't get too excited or too depressed how we played the first 4 to 5 minutes. We came out strong and we've got to keep that momentum."