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Return of the King (McClure)

McClure’s second half powered the Bears and points to a special season for Baylor.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis Championship-Baylor vs Louisville Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It hadn’t been the start King McClure could have wanted. A year removed from thinking his playing career might be over, McClure had just three points through five games. And with twenty minutes left in the Battle 4 Atlantis final, his team was well on the way to being blown out.

But something crazy happened in the second half. McClure—who had two more turnovers than points in the previous four games—suddenly found his shot. And the Bears began to chip away at a lead that once seemed insurmountable.

With 13:58 remaining in the Battle 4 Atlantis final, Baylor trailed Louisville by 16. One formula gave the Bears a 5% chance to win, but watching the day’s action, even those odds seemed generous. McClure was zero for six from three on the season, but he found something on his seventh attempt:

And with his eighth attempt less than 20 seconds later, the Bears were suddenly down just ten:

The Bears got back into the game while switching to man-to-man defense. McClure and Lindsey provided hounding on ball pressure and fought through screens. McClure finished last season with one of the best steal rates in the Big 12. Against Louisville, McClure began a run of Baylor intercepting passes at the top of the key. This one led to a nice slam dunk:

McClure relied on the help of Jake Lindsey on his first two field goals, but McClure didn’t need any help on this attempt. By making two straight threes, Louisville suddenly feared McClure’s three point shot. The Cardinals decided to switch a big man onto McClure. Seeing that, McClure sliced the lane and found a way to avoid the long arms of a Louisville defense that had limited Baylor’s offense for much of the day:

McClure does not look to just hit jumpers though. The Bears play at a slow pace, but McClure and Lindsey weren’t afraid to push the ball. And with the help of Johnathan Motley’s seal down low, McClure brought the Bears within one:

The Bears comeback also required them to finish late against an elite team. Louisville has the nation’s best defense, according to KenPom. To finish late, the Bears had to avoid turnovers, and McClure made a key grab after Manu Lecomte lost the ball:

Throughout the game, I kept thinking about Baylor’s comeback last season in Norman. The Bears lost that game. But they made a massive comeback against Buddy Hield’s Sooners. After the game, King McClure discussed that game and how the team came together to pull off the comeback:

The Baylor Bears won a tournament where they trailed by at least eight points in every game. They won the tournament because they had Johnathan Motley, who clearly was the best player there and will be the Big 12’s best big man. They won because they scouted well and made changes at key times, including going to man-to-man against Michigan State and Louisville. And they won because King McClure found a way to put aside how poorly his season had started and focused on how the Battle 4 Atlantis would end. The Bears now leave the Bahamas not as a team in a rebuilding year but as a team that could be the best in school history.