With an excellent final quarter of play, Baylor (19-14) defeated Wagner (23-10) 80-59. The Bears will take on the winner of Nebraska-Mississippi State in the next round. The time and date of that game has not been announced.
Early on Baylor demonstrated a decided talent advantage. The Bears were much quicker and longer. Wagner seemed to have little chance, but they battled all night.
Baylor built a giant lead in the first quarter. The Bears led 21-9 after one quarter. Despite seven turnovers and taking 12 fewer shots than Wagner, Baylor was firmly in control. The Bears worked the ball to Terry Maston and Jo Lual-Acuil, and the zone left Wagner firing long threes.
But Wagner fought back, courtesy of an 11-2 run. They hit some threes, and Baylor missed layups and free throws. With 5:00 left in the second quarter, Baylor led by just seven points.
Manu Lecomte answered. He drained back-to-back threes to give Baylor a 13 point lead.
Baylor suffered two injuries in this game. Tristan Clark injured himself in the first half coming down on a block, and he sat out the remainder of the game with a sprained foot. Jake Lindsey also re-aggravated his hip injury and didn’t play in the second half. He’s been battling a hip injury all season, often playing through pain.
The third quarter did not go well. Baylor lost the quarter 16-13. The Bears did not make a field goal for the final 4:38. And Wagner took seven more shots that quarter. A brutal quarter for the Bears.
The Seahawks did very well on the boards. Through three quarters, Wagner—a team without anyone taller than 6-foot-8—collected 16 offensive rebounds. The Bears collected just three in the first three quarters. Wagner seemed to have more energy than a short Baylor rotation dealing with the disappointment of playing in the NIT.
Baylor pulled away in the final quarter. The Bears went on a 14-2 run. King McClure and Lecomte hit big threes, and Lual-Acuil blocked a layup. A long lob to Nuni Omot for an alley-oop removed all doubt about the outcome. The Bears’ energy was much better in the final period.
The experimental rules were fantastic. The longer 3-point line and wider line led to more spacing. Occasionally the teams ended up in weird spots—taking long twos and camping out in the lane for too long—but those minor blips are worth the benefit of better pacing and spacing. The quarter system also seemed to help the game flow better, especially with fewer T.V. timeouts.
Lecomte led Baylor with 24 points, including 18 in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. While we would have all liked for Baylor to play in the NCAA Tournament, it’s nice the season continues.