Here are three thoughts following the Baylor Bears’ Sweet 16 win over the Villanova Wildcats on Saturday in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
THE RUN THAT WON
The Bears went into the second half looking for a formula that would help them overcome a seven-point deficit. Part of that was eschewing the 3-point shot that was failing them in the first half and taking the ball to the paint, either on drives or on post plays. The second was defense, and the Bears defense stepped up huge in the second half, forcing more turnovers than Wildcat field goals. But it was a particular stretch that lit the match that sparked the Bears back into the lead and into control of the game.
The Bears were down 41-39 after Villanova’s Justin Moore hit a layup with 11:31 left. Despite three shots and a TV timeout, the Bears had an empty possession on their end. But, the Wildcats turned the ball over on the other end. Jared Butler’s steal turned into a Davion Mitchell lay-up at the other end, tying the game at 41. And then the floodgates opened.
Moore turned the ball over on the next possession, but Baylor didn’t convert. The Wildcats turned it over again, with Matthew Mayer forcing the steal. This time, Butler scored the layup to give Baylor its first lead since the 6:42 mark of the first half. Then the Bears built on it. Villanova’s Jermaine Sanders turned it over on the next possession. MaCio Teague had the steal, who passed it to Butler, who passed it to Mitchell for a layup. The coup de grace came on the next possession, as Mitchell stripped Moore at the top of the key, and then fed Mayer for a layup at the other end for a 47-41 lead with 8:20 left. Baylor went on a 23-10 run in the final 10 minutes of the game.
There was still a lot of time left at that point. But the Bears were in control. Villanova didn’t have a good enough answer to their pressure. Between the Bears forcing nine Villanova turnovers in the second half, and scoring the vast majority of their 39 points in the paint in the second half, the Bears moved on to the Elite Eight.
ABOUT THAT 3-POINT SHOOTING START …
The Baylor Bears shot as poorly from the 3-point line as they have in quite some time in the first half against Villanova. The Bears ended up firing 2-for-12, as Jared Butler and Adam Flagler each hit a 3-pointer. That included a missed 3-pointer from MaCio Teague, who in the previous five games had shot better than 50 percent from the 3-point line. The Bears were down 30-23 at the break. But, other than the 3-point shooting — which dragged the Bears’ field-goal percentage down, of course — the Bears were basically even with the Wildcats. The Bears were plus-2 in turnovers, minus-2 in rebounds, and minus-2 in assists. The Wildcats played fired up basketball in the first half. Villanova head coach Jay Wright had a week to prepare for the Bears and, frankly, the Wildcats have equalized themselves since the loss to guard Colin Gillespie.
Thanks in part to Baylor’s poor shooting, the Wildcats finished the first half on a 19-5 run to take the lead.
Baylor ended up shooting 3-of-19 from the 3-point line for the game, as Flagler hit another in the second half that gave the Bears a 7-point lead.
RAISING THE ‘FLAG’
In a game where Jared Butler wasn’t quite himself shooting the ball (4-of-14 overall, 1-of-9 from 3), Adam Flagler came up big, leading the Bears with 16 points. Butler took a seat earlier than normal in the second half, thanks to his shooting woes, and Flagler filled in capably. He shot 4-of-6 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from the 3-point line, along with a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Flagler has been a luxury for the Bears this year, as Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague have dominated this season. But, in key moments this season, Flagler has stepped up, just as he did on Saturday.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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