Baylor Bears

Three Thoughts on Baylor’s 74-56 Win Over UCSB in NCAA Tournament

After a tale-of-two-halves performance from Baylor, the No. 3 seed Bears are heading to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after defeating UC Santa Barbara 74-56.

Baylor was down 36-35 after the first half but outscored the Gauchos 39-20 in the final 20 minutes to pull away. Baylor will face the winner of No. 6 Creighton and No. 11 NC State on Sunday.

Here are three thoughts on Baylor’s win and what it means for the Bears going forward.


Baylor Sleepwalks Through the First Half

After the first 20 minutes, it appeared that Scott Drew’s squad might be playing with fire, as they trailed the Gauchos 36-35 after a sloppy half. Going into the locker room, Baylor was just 2-7 from beyond the arc, which just isn’t going to get it done for a team that thrives on the longball. Defensively, the Bears looked lost and couldn’t seem to keep up with UCSB at times. In fact, the Gauchos were shooting 62% from the field in the first half, as the Bears continually gave them open looks at the basket from midrange. Baylor was outrebounded in the first half 12-10, which was an issue that carried over from their loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament. The Gauchos also matched Baylor in points in the paint in the first half, with 18 a piece, which should never happen. It was an ugly first half, and Baylor was lucky to only be down by one point.

Bears Turn it On in Final 20 Minutes

When Scott Drew took his team into the locker room, something changed in a big way. The Bears stepped up the defensive intensity to a level we haven’t seen from them in a while. UCSB turned the ball over in five of their first eight possessions and shot just 27% from the field in the second half. In fact, the Gauchos made just six shots from the field in the second half. Meanwhile, Baylor made 60% of their shots in the second half, going 15-25 from the field and 6-14 from three. Baylor’s trio of Keyonte George, LJ Cryer, and Adam Flagler were held in check in the first half, but exploded for 42 points total after a dominant second half. If Baylor can get that kind of performance for a full game, this team could make a run.


Baylor Can’t Afford First-Half Performance Again

If Baylor comes out against Creighton or NC State the way that they did against UC Santa Barbara, they will be headed back to Waco with an early exit. This Bears team is capable of taking games over offensively, and when the defense performs the way it did in the second half, Baylor is among the best teams in the nation. The problem is, we haven’t seen that kind of defensive effort from the Bears for long stretches of the season, and in March, that will lose you games. Hopefully, whatever happened in the locker room at halftime will feed Baylor’s energy going into the next game, because if it does, Baylor will find itself in the Sweet 16 with a winnable matchup against either Missouri or Princeton. If not, it will be a disappointing end to the 2023 season, and Keyonte George’s short time in Waco.

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