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Baylor Beats USC 82-78; Bears Heading to Sweet 16!

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The Bears are headed to their fourth Sweet 16 this decade

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs USC Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Trump should expect a phone call from USC asking to have Belgium added to the travel ban after Manu Lecomte changed the course of a season in the span of 50 seconds. In a moment where the game seemed to slipping away from Baylor, Lecomte hit a 3-point shot as he was fouled. He drilled the free throw, then he nabbed a steal, drew a foul and made both free throws. The game seemed like it was falling out of Baylor’s grasp as USC was 9-of-16 from 3-point range at that moment. But this team has never been exactly what it seemed, and the Bears are headed to their fourth Sweet 16 since 2010 with an 82-78 win over the Trojans.

A team really shouldn’t win when the opponent hits 9-of-16 3-point shots. It just doesn’t happen against a tournament team. Bennie Boatwright couldn’t miss, and Chemezie Metu was a monster in the paint. The Trojans did more than enough to win. Baylor just did a little more when it mattered.

Ish Wainright stepped to the line with Baylor up two points with 16 seconds remaining. Wainright is the only Bear to play in four NCAA Tournaments, and the fate of the Bear’s season was on the line. He swished both shots.

The Bear’s formula all season has been Johnathan Motley dominating, Manu Lecomte scoring from 3-point range, solid defense and another player stepping up. The Bears have a deeper rotation than many teams—often playing eight or nine guys—and two stepped up today. King McClure started 4-of-7 from deep, and he grabbed two early steals. In a game where every possession felt like it changed the game, those were huge. McClure finished with 17 points.

Terry Maston has had quite the weekend. A day after Scott Drew and his staff unleashed the 6’7 power forward, he was ready again. USC’s defense was content to give him long 2-point shots. And he made them. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. With Johnathan Motley fouling out, and battling foul trouble for long stretches before that, Maston stepped up on defense too by providing a key block late in the action.

This may have been the most impressive Baylor win of the Scott Drew era. The win over Kansas in the Big 12 Semifinals in 2012 or the Louisville comeback this season were both against better teams and the win probability may have said the Bear’s chances were worse in those games. But something special happened tonight. As Motley picked up his fourth foul, Drew went with a lineup of Manu Lecomte, Jake Lindsey, King McClure, Ish Wanright and Terry Maston. Drew hadn’t played that lineup all season. With that lineup, the team made shoots, worked USC off the perimeter and sealed a win.

Baylor moves to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time this decade. They’ll take on the winner of Duke-South Carolina in New York City on Friday. What is probably the best team in school history has to win two games to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1950.