Here are three thoughts following the Baylor Bears win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
SWEET 16 BOUND
With the 76-63 victory over Wisconsin, the Bears are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017, when the Bears defeated New Mexico State and USC as a No. 3 seed. This will also be the Bears’ fifth Sweet 16 berth under head coach Scott Drew. The Bears played a rock-solid game, and in the second half they had an answer every time the Badgers tried to make a run. At times, Wisconsin had the lead down to as little as seven points. But every time it happened, the Bears hit a timely 3-pointer or had a timely defensive stop. This was their first challenge of this NCAA Tournament, and they passed it with a great shooting game, as they were just as good from the 3-point line (47.1 percent) as they were from the field (45.5 percent). The Badgers actually shot just as well (46 percent from the floor), and we’ll get to why that was important in a second. But Davion Mitchell (16 points, one rebound, eight assists, two steals) and Jared Butler (16 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal) both had steady games for Baylor.
AN EXCEPTIONAL FIRST HALF
Baylor, at times, can admittedly have a turnover problem. And, as we saw with Texas on Saturday night, those kinds of turnovers can just get you. Well, they didn’t get Baylor in the first half of Sunday’s game. The Bears had one turnover. Just. One. Meanwhile the Bears forced nine Badgers turnovers, and built a 42-29 halftime lead. With that came 12 Baylor points off turnovers and a 31-18 run to end the first half, after being tied with Wisconsin at 11-11. A lot went right for Baylor in the first half. The biggest of those ‘rights’ was their turnover game. And when you consider that the Badgers shot as well in this game as the Bears did (I wrote about that above), you can see why the turnovers, and what the Bears did with them, were so important.
By game’s end the Bears had just four turnovers, and Wisconsin had 14 turnovers. That ended up being a big factor in the game, as the Badgers just couldn’t get over the hump.
MATTHEW AND THE MULLET
Matthew Mayer has grown a mullet that Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy would be envious of. Gundy should be envious of Mayer’s game, too. Mayer, the junior forward, came off the bench to score 17 points and grab six rebounds to give the Bears a real boost off the bench. This is the first time that Mayer has hit double figures in points since the Bears faced Oklahoma State in the regular season on March 4, when Mayer scored 19 points. Of particular note for the Bears is that Mayer had two steals and he’s a better defender than he’s given credit for.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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