Baylor Bears

Three Thoughts on Baylor Advancing to Final Four With Win Over Arkansas

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Arkansas at Baylor

Here are three thoughts on Baylor’s win over Arkansas as the Bears advance to the Final Four.

TEAGUE FOR THREE (AND THREE)

MaCio Teague had a game-high 22 points in the Bears’ 82-71 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. But six of those points were incredibly key to the Bears closing out the deal.

The game had become a slog. The incredible energy that both teams had played with in the first half was still there. But, it had become a half-court slugfest with a bounty of fouls called and the Hogs holding steady, staying within striking distance. Arkansas had it down to 64-60 at one point, with 7:34 left after Moses Moody made two free throws (he had 11 points, but was only 2-of-10 from the floor). Davion Mitchell made a jumper with 6:27 left to push the lead back to six points, 66-60. But the issue was by no means decided.

Teague made sure it was decided.

After Arkansas’ Jalen Tate missed a jumper, Mitchell grabbed the rebound, brought the fast break down the floor and found Teague set up across the court for a 3-pointer. The Bears, to that point, were 1-of-5 from the 3-point line in the second half. With enough time to line everything up, Teague drained the 3 to push the Bears’ lead to nine points, 69-60, with 4:48 left.

That gave the Bears a little breathing room. Tate made a free throw after that, but after he missed the second and the Bears got the rebound, Teague did it again. Mitchell drove in from the wing, dished out to Teague from the paint and the senior drained another 3-pointer to make it 72-61 with 3:59 left.

Now, it wasn’t over. Baylor didn’t cruise. And the Bears got some key plays later. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua had a key block. Mark Vital had a thunderous dunk. But in that key moment, Teague set the Bears on course for their first Final Four since 1950.

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THAT INCREDIBLE START FOR BAYLOR

I did some radio on Monday and one of the things I stressed was that I was watching how Baylor started the game, especially from the 3-point line. And Baylor shot well from the 3-point line (4-of-7 in the first half). But that start was incredible for Baylor. The Bears started the game on a 15-3 run. Eventually, Baylor turned that into an 18-point lead, 29-11, with 11:01 left in the first half. The Bears started by shooting 7-of-10 overall, and then 10-of-15 overall eight minutes in. With six minutes left in the first half, the Bears were shooting an incredible 71.8 percent from the floor. And they still couldn’t quite shake the Razorbacks.

But the Bears lit a fire under Arkansas defensively and discombobulated them for the first 10 minutes to build that lead. They then maintained it with solid shooting and that rock-solid defense.

Arkansas got back into the game by extending its defense to halfcourt and forcing the Bears to start their offense from there. It didn’t pay off to start with, but eventually it helped. Arkansas’ shooting settled down. They forced some fouls and got into the bonus with about six minutes left. In fact, by the end of the first half the Razorbacks were shooting better (62 percent) than Baylor (56 percent) overall. And this was without notable contributions from super freshman Moses Moody (1 point) and Justin Smith (6 points, 1 rebound). Instead it was JD Notae (12 points) and Jalen Tate (9 points) that carried the Razorbacks and kept them in the game.

The question going into the second half was whether the Bears could keep up the breakneck pace it set in the first half, whether the Razorbacks could cut down on the turnovers, and whether either team would cool off in terms of its shooting touch.

 

THE WORDS OF BILL MUSSELMAN

During the broadcast, CBS invoked the words of former NBA coach Bill Musselman, the father of Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman, who said, “There are three runs in a game. Make sure you control two of them.”

The Bears controlled two of them. First, there was the run referenced above, that 29-11 to start the game. The Razorbacks controlled the next one as they got back into the game. That run wasn’t as impressive as the Bears’ start to the game. But, by the time the Razorbacks chipped that Bears’ lead down to 64-60, it was a 22-18 run to start the second half. But the Razorbacks did it without their best offensive player in the game, JD Notae, who fouled out with 13 minutes left and 14 points. Forward Justin Smith (10 points, 6 rebounds) was starting to come alive. Jalen Tate had 13 points and was coming around, too.

But that last run of the game? Baylor controlled it. The Bears went on a 17-12 run in the final four minutes of the game. But, inside of that was an eight-minute stretch where Arkansas failed to make a field goal. By the time Smith ended the drought with a layup with 1:20 left, the die was cast.

The Bears finished the game with 21 points off turnovers, quite a bit of that coming in the first half during that impressive early run.

In the words of Bill Musselman, the Bears made sure they controlled two of those runs.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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