WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY: How Sweet It Is! Bears Rout Creighton, 85-55March 24, 2014
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Smiling from ear to ear, Baylor coach Scott Drew said his Bears were "pretty good tonight."
If that was "pretty good," I wonder what really good looks like.
Dominating from start to finish, Baylor shot an amazing 63.8 percent from the field, buried 11 3-pointers and held Doug McDermott in check as the sixth-seeded Bears rolled into the Sweet 16 for the third time in five years with an 85-55 dismantling of third-seeded Creighton before a crowd of 13,431 in Sunday's third-round NCAA tournament game at the AT&T Center.
"Sometimes, you execute well on the offensive and defensive end, and things just fall into place," said Drew, whose team won for the 12th time in the last 14 games in improving to 26-11. "We had a tremendous togetherness. . . . Defensively, everyone got down and did a great job on what their assignments were. It's one of those games as a coach that you look back and say we were pretty good tonight."
The Bears advance to face second-seeded and 12th-ranked Wisconsin (28-7) in the West Region semifinals at 6:47 p.m. CDT Thursday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Top-seeded and fifth-ranked Arizona (32-4) plays fourth-seeded and 13th-ranked San Diego State (31-4) in the other semifinal at 9:17 p.m. CDT Thursday, with the winners meeting Saturday for a trip to the Final Four at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"We take pride in people hating on us, and we love proving people wrong," said 7-1 sophomore center Isaiah Austin, who shared game-high scoring honors with senior guard Brady Heslip with 17 points apiece. "Our team right now, we have a tremendous amount of confidence, and everybody has bought into the one goal we have in mind; and that is winning a national championship."
Forty-four days ago, when Baylor was 14-9 overall and 2-8 in the Big 12, the mere thought of that would have brought eye rolls and chuckles. Now, it seems at least possible.
"Coaches emphasized we just need to rely on God for everything," said Heslip, who was 5-of-7 from outside the 3-point arc. "All the situations He puts us through is for a reason. It was only halfway through the year, and we didn't feel like there was so much pressure. We just needed to change some things and start playing for each other and giving more effort. When we did that, we started winning, and it became a lot more fun."
Sunday's game against McDermott and the favored Bluejays (27-8) was about as fun as it gets.
Frustrated by a Baylor zone that shaded the 6-foot-8 McDermott wherever he went, Creighton hit just 5-of-24 of its 3-point attempts, shot 40 percent overall (22-of-55) and scored its second-fewest points of the season. McDermott, the nation's leading scorer with a 27-point average, had three points in the first half and finished with 15 on 7-of-14 shooting from the field.
"They forced us to get it in the middle of that zone, and it's hard to score over those guys; they're so long and athletic, where they challenge every shot in there," McDermott said of Austin and 6-9 senior forward Cory Jefferson. "To their credit, they took away what we do best and kind of controlled the tempo of the game and made it hard on us."
The Bears did it on both ends of the floor, hitting their first five 3-pointers and going up 19-7 in the first seven minutes. With the Creighton defense sagging off Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neal to help defend Austin and Jefferson down low, those two combined to knock down four of those five 3-pointers and give Baylor a lead it would never relinquish.
"When they hit those, then it made their defense extend," Drew said. "And now, we're able to get Cory and Isaiah one-on-one, and then Brady gets looks. So, that just opened everything up."
Creighton coach Greg McDermott, Doug's father, said that opening 3-point barrage "knocked us back on our heels, and we weren't able to really ever recover."
Baylor stretched its lead to 26-9, with the Bluejays not able to string together back-to-back buckets until the last eight minutes of the half. Austin got a put-back in the final seconds to give the Bears a stunning 40-20 lead at the break.
"This is the worst we've played all season, and it just stinks that it's the last one," said Doug McDermott, who was just 1-of-4 in the first half with three points, one rebound and a turnover.
In wins over Oklahoma and Texas at the Big 12 tournament, Baylor wasn't able to sustain big leads in the second half and things got interesting.
Not so this time.
Ethan Wragge gave the Bluejays a glimmer of hope with back-to-back 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half, and they did shoot marginally better. But they never got closer than 19 the rest of the way. Every time the door seemed to be even remotely cracked open, the Bears closed it with authority.
"I tip my hat to Baylor. They played a great game tonight," Greg McDermott said. "The way they shot the basketball, I'm not sure our best would have even been good enough tonight. . . . I'm not sure if it was Baylor being that good or us being that bad, or if it was somewhere in between. Over the course of a season, you're going to have a few clunkers, and we had one at the wrong time."
And without question, the Bears had arguably their best at the right time.
"What I was impressed with is we started fast, and then we maintained," Drew said. "We've had good halves, and then we've given back. And I thought we played 40 minutes, which was outstanding."
The fact that Baylor has posted wins over three Sweet 16 teams - Kentucky, Dayton and Iowa State - makes the team "more prepared to do well in postseason."
"The teams that we've played give you a chance," he said, "because now when you play a great team like Creighton, you've already played a lot of good teams."
Stretching the lead to as many as 34, Drew was able to empty the bench in the final minutes and get playing time for walk-ons Logan Lowery and John Heard. Lowery matched his career high with three points, hitting one of two free throws and then driving through the lane for a finger-roll layup
Baylor showed off its balanced scoring with all five starters scoring in double figures and nine different players getting in the scoring column. Jefferson and Chery each scored 14 points, while the stat-stuffing O'Neale had 10 points, eight assists, five boards and two steals.
"Royce plays winning basketball; he makes winning plays," Drew said of the 6-6 junior guard/forward. "There are so many things that he does that don't show up in the stat book. But, obviously, he was tremendous tonight."
Here is a link to the boxscore from Sunday's Baylor-Creighton men's basketball game.
You are reading the featured portion of Jerry Hill's Daily Baylor Bear Insider email.
To get this and more information about the Baylor Bears sent to you each day, join the Baylor Bear Foundation today.