Baylor 80, Wagner 59
Baylor didn’t look fantastic against Wagner on Tuesday night. So, thank goodness Manu Lecomte was on his game.
The senior guard is hoping for a long stay in the NIT and if he plays the way he did Tuesday night the Bears (19-14) have a good chance of reaching Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four, where they won the title in 2013. While Baylor shot better than 50 percent for the night, Lecomte drove the scoring, finishing with 24 points and 6 assists. Baylor started the game hot, built a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and that lead was never seriously threatened by Wagner (23-10), which played with plenty of fire, even as the game slipped away from them.
The big deal for Lecomte was that he was 5-of-8 from the 3-point line, and since the NIT is adopting the FIBA 3-point line (22 feet, 1 3/4 inches) for the tournament, Lecomte’s near-effortless handling of the change on a week’s notice was encouraging. By the end of the game the Bears had shot 53.6 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the 3-point line and four other Bears were in double figures — Terry Maston (13), Nuni Omot (11), Lo Lual-Acuil (10) and King McClure (10).
Wagner knew going in it would be at a height disadvantage. Well, that didn’t seem to matter to the Seahawks. Wagner actually outrebounded Baylor on the offensive glass, 20-8, and 39-37 overall. The Bears lost Lual-Acuil to foul trouble in the first half, but the Bears had a sizeable advantage without him and didn’t run with it. Getting outrebounded on the offensive glass is going to be a coaching point for Scott Drew on Wednesday.
Blake Francis was Wagner’s only player in double figures with 23 points. The Seahawks started the game shooting 3-of-23 and got only marginally better, finishing 29.6 percent from the floor and 20 percent from the 3-point line. That made it impossible for them to cut the Baylor lead to any more than 8 points.
The Bears have two injuries to monitor. Guard Jake Lindsey and forward Tristan Clark both left the game with injuries. The good news for the Bears is that they’ll be at home for their next NIT game and their prospective opponents play on Wednesday, so the Bears get an extra day to rest.
Next up: The winner faces either Mississippi State or Nebraska in the second round.
Oklahoma State 80, Florida Gulf Coast 68
Oklahoma State felt it had a case to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys took that frustration out on Florida Gulf Coast, though the Eagles fought back enough to make it interesting at times in the second half.
The Cowboys (20-14) won this game with defense, rebounding and free-throw shooting, because they sure didn’t win it with 35.6 percent shooting from the floor (along with 27.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line). Defensively the Cowboys forced 18 Eagles turnovers, giving them additional scoring opportunities. The Cowboys took advantage of their size with a 48-38 advantage on the glass, led by Mitchell Solomon with 9 rebounds. Then, the Cowboys had a huge edge at the free-throw line, going 32-of-41 led by Jeffrey Carroll’s 12-of-13 night from the line, which led to 18 points.
OSU also received solid games from Solomon (13 points), Tavarius Shine (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Lindy Waters III (10 points). Despite the less-than-ideal shooting, the effort should make head coach Mike Boynton happy and give the Cowboys good momentum going into the next round.
The Eagles (23-12) didn’t make it easy. After falling behind early and realizing they had matchup problems in man-to-man they moved to a zone defense, both in the half court and the full court. Neither yielded the results the Eagles were hoping for, as the Cowboys made 13 turnovers. That’s still too high for Boynton’s taste, but it was certainly fewer than the Eagles. The Cowboys stuck with their man-to-man defense and held the Eagles under 40 percent shooting for the night, which was key given FGCU’s high-powered offense. The Cowboys held Zach Johnson — who had 37 points in FGCU’s Atlantic Sun Conference title game loss to Lipscomb — to just 23 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Brandon Goodwin, who had 34 points against Lipscomb, only managed 18 points. They were the Eagles’ only two players in double figures.
The Cowboys figure to be tough to beat in Gallagher-Iba, as their victory secured at least one more NIT home game. Like Baylor, the Cowboys will get an extra day to rest, as their prospective opponents play on Wednesday.
Next up: The winner faces Stanford or BYU in the second round.