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No. 6 Baylor blitzes Michigan State Spartans 75-58 for Battle 4 Atlantis men's basketball title

Baylor guard James Akinjo, left, and Michigan State guard Tyson Walker battle for the ball at Paradise Island, Bahamas, on Friday. (Tim Aylen/ Bahamas Visual Services via AP)

By AARON BEARD

AP Basketball Writer

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — James Akinjo held the MVP trophy as he danced on the court in a crowd of his new Baylor teammates. Around him bounced talented freshmen and multiple guys thriving in larger roles.

The sixth-ranked Bears have a different look from last year’s run to the national championship, but the results seem familiar — down to Scott Drew’s club celebrating another title-clinching victory.

Akinjo scored 15 points and Baylor beat Michigan State 75-58 on Friday for the Battle 4 Atlantis championship, using a balanced lineup to earn yet another lopsided win to start the season.

“There’s no great NBA team with one player,” said Drew, his voice hoarse after three games in three days. “To win a championship, you’ve got to have a team, you’ve got to have a bench. We’ve had a rotation and then the big thing as coaches when you get new players, they start to trust each other.”

Among the returnees, L.J. Cryer has gone from averaging 3.4 points last year to 15.8 entering Friday and forward Matthew Mayer is seeing a larger starting role after being a top sub.

It has been the right mix for Drew after losing four starters, including Davion Mitchell as the No. 9 overall NBA draft pick.

The Bears (7-0) looked dominant as they took control early in the second half, throwing some full-court defensive looks at the Spartans (5-2) and capitalizing on their mistakes.

By the end, Baylor had turned a 38-36 halftime lead into a romp, with four double-figure scorers and three others with eight points.

Gabe Brown scored 13 points for the Spartans, who shot just 37% and missed all seven of their 3-pointers after halftime.

The Bears used an 8-0 run to stretch out to a double-digit lead, ending when Akinjo corralled a thrown-away inbounds pass against pressure by Tyson Walker and buried a 3-pointer to make it 55-42 with 13:57 left.

Baylor never let Michigan State within single digits again, improving to 6-0 all-time at Atlantis going back to its 2016 championship run.

Baylor guard James Akinjo, left, and Michigan State guard Tyson Walker battle for the ball at Paradise Island, Bahamas, on Friday. (Tim Aylen/ Bahamas Visual Services via AP)