2016 was certainly a year unlike any other for fans of Baylor athletics. There were moments of joy and moments of pain. There were exhilarating highs and gut wrenching lows, both on and off the field. But to close out the year, we wanted to highlight 10 games that stood out as the best moments of 2016. It’s also worth pointing out that this list is presented in chronological order.
January 9 - Men's Basketball: Baylor 94 Iowa State 89
Baylor basketball was a bit of an unknown quantity entering conference play in January and appeared to have a difficult challenge on its hands as it stepped into Hilton Coliseum in Ames where the Cyclones were out for revenge. Baylor had handed Iowa State its only home loss in 2015 and ISU made an early statement, controlling the 1st half behind strong play from Georges Niang. But Johnathan Motley turned this game into his own coming out party in the 2nd half, pouring in 27 points and 13 rebounds, as the Bears came from 10 down to stun the Cyclones on their home floor for the second consecutive season. Lester Medford's 3 pointer with 8 minutes to go to give BU it's first lead and Taurean Prince was also key down the stretch for Baylor, scoring some timely buckets to keep the Bears in front. This game really gave Baylor a jolt early in the season as the Bears would eventually reach the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year and sixth time in eight seasons.
February 29 - Women's Basketball: Baylor 74 Texas 48
The Lady Bears needed a win over the Longhorns in the final game of the regular season to clinch a sixth consecutive outright Big 12 championship. And in front of a sellout crowd in the Ferrell Center, Baylor did exactly that in emphatic fashion. The game was closely contested through most of the 1st half as Baylor made a late push in the 2nd quarter to go into the break with a 30-20 lead. But it was the 3rd quarter where the Lady Bears left UT in the dust, outscoring the Horns 30-10 in the 3rd behind 13 points in the quarter from Kristy Wallace, who led the team with 23 for the game. Nina Davis also pitched in with 16 points and Niya Johnson had a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists in her final home game as a Lady Bear. Baylor would go on to also win its sixth straight Big 12 Tournament title a week later and reach the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in that same six year stretch.
March 10 - Men's Basketball: Baylor 75 Texas 61
Baylor rickrolled Texas in Austin on February 20th and the two teams matched up again in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. And on this date in Kansas City, Baylor would rickroll Texas again. Because Baylor rickrolls Texas in shootyhoops on the reg. Taurean Prince was a monster with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but several other Bears contributed as well in a game that BU controlled from start to finish. Rico Gathers helped Baylor dominate the Horns on the boards and it really seemed as if the Bears had an answer for every Texas run. Baylor would lose to Kansas in basketball in the semifinals the next night but don't let that make you lose sight of the fact that Texas lost to Kansas in football.
April 19 - Acrobatics & Tumbling: Baylor 286.275 Oregon 282.305
Look, I know next to nothing about this sport aside from the fact that they do flips and stuff that I would break my neck if I tried, but I know that we're really good at it and winning a national championship is kind of a big deal! This was the second consecutive national title for the A&T program under Felicia Mulkey and the Lady Bears went undefeated through the 2016 season. And this one was extra special as Baylor got to win the national title in front of a crowd of over 2,000 fans in the Ferrell Center.
May 14 - Baseball: Baylor 8 TCU 5
It was a retooling year for the Bears on the diamond under new head coach Steve Rodriguez but Baylor definitely improved as the season went along. Nothing was a testament to that more than this win over TCU which gave the Bears a series win over the Horned Frogs, a team that would go on to reach the semifinals of the College World Series. The Bears started the scoring in the 3rd inning with a Matt Menard RBI double. BU would tack on two more in the 5th and then blew it wide open with a massive 2 out rally in the 6th, capped off by a run scoring double from T.J. Raguse before Menard came up with another double of his own, this one scoring a pair of Baylor runs. From there, Baylor starter Daniel Castano kept the powerful TCU offense at bay. Castano allowed just 4 hits and 1 walk over his first 7 innings and while he gave up a couple runs in the 8th to lose his shutout, the Bears were able to give the ball to All-American closer Troy Montemayor to close it out in the 9th to preserve the Baylor win.
September 24 - Football: Baylor 35 Oklahoma State 24
Without a doubt, this game was the highlight of a tumultuous regular season for Baylor football. The Bears opened conference play against an Oklahoma State team that came into the season with big expectations. This game would be Baylor's first chance to prove itself under Jim Grobe's leadership. BU got off to a great start with a quick Terence Williams touchdown run on the opening drive, but the game would then be halted for nearly two hours due to a lightning delay. When play resumed, the teams traded blows and a late touchdown pass from Seth Russell to Ishmael Zamora gave the Bears a 21-14 lead at the half. The Cowboys opened the 2nd half with a long touchdown drive to tie the game, converting several 3rd downs in the process and appeared to be wearing down the Baylor defense. But momentum flipped in one play as Russell found Chris Platt down the seam for an 89 yard bomb to put Baylor back in front. Russell ended the day with 387 yards passing and 4 touchdowns to go with 65 yards on the ground. The Bears would never allow OSU to pull even again and in the 4th quarter, Oklahoma State had three red zone possessions that resulted in 0 points. It was an impressive win and was part of a 6-0 start to the season. The win also got better with age as OSU would not lose again until December as they finished the season with 10 wins.
November 25 - Men's Basketball: Baylor 66 Louisville 63
Baylor knocked off of VCU and Michigan State on consecutive days to reach the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas where they would face a top 10 Louisville squad. And Louisville clearly looked like the better team early, jumping out to a 32-10 lead in the 1st half. Baylor's offense finally came to life towards the end of the half but the Cardinals still held a 16 point lead with just under 14 minutes to play in the game. But that's when Baylor's bench completely took over the game. King McClure got hot from the 3 point line, Terry Maston made some key buckets, and it was Jake Lindsey's steal and layup that gave the Bears their first lead of the game at 57-56 at the 4 minute mark. Baylor would never relinquish that lead and would bring home the championship trophy. The Bears shot a ridiculous 65% from the field in the 2nd half against a Louisville defense that is consistently one of the top defenses in all of college basketball.
December 2 - Volleyball: Baylor 3 San Diego 2
Baylor volleyball made big strides in year two under Ryan McGuyre, capped off by the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. And the Lady Bears made sure that their stay would not be a short one as they upset #14 San Diego in the first round of the tournament in five sets. Baylor was led by a huge performance from Aniah Philo and got key points when they needed them to stay in the match as BU fell behind in losing the first set and then the third. Morgan Reed and All-American Katie Staiger also came up big in crunch time for Baylor. San Diego led 18-17 in the fourth but a huge Baylor rally forced the fifth set. It was Baylor's first NCAA win since 2009 and although the Lady Bears would lose to UCLA in the second round, the future is certainly bright for this program.
December 15 - Women's Basketball: Baylor 140 Winthrop 32
This game is on this list for no other reason that the fact than the Lady Bears won this game by ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT POINTS. That is not a normal thing. The rout set a new NCAA record for margin of victory in a women's basketball game. It speaks to just how good the Lady Bears are, despite the fact that Winthrop is obviously a less than stellar caliber of opponent. Not to mention, Baylor was playing without leading scorer Alexis Jones!
December 27 - Football: Baylor 31 Boise State 12
Baylor football closed the regular season with six consecutive losses and so I'm sure all of you were thinking that the Bears would get taken to the woodshed by a solid Boise State team in the Cactus Bowl. Psych! Baylor's defense made some critical plays in the red zone before KD Cannon started to dominate the Bronco secondary, scoring BU's first two touchdowns and ending up with over 200 yards receiving on the night. A JaMycal Hasty touchdown run late in the 1st half capped off a 99 yard drive and gave the Bears a commanding 21-3 lead. In the 2nd half, it was more of the same as the underdog Bears eventually pushed the lead to as much as 25 points and kept Boise State's offense out of the end zone until the final minute of play. Orion Stewart led the defense with an interception, fumble recovery, and sack in his final game as a Bear and Taylor Young set a Cactus Bowl record with 17 tackles. Zach Smith had the best game of his freshman season since taking over for Seth Russell at QB, throwing for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns. And this gave the Bears a win to send off Jim Grobe, who had stepped into an impossible situation as Baylor's acting head coach for the 2016 season. It was a great way to bring closure to a most difficult season.