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Believe in Threes: Baylor Beats Syracuse 78-69

They did it!

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Baylor vs Syracuse Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse was good enough to beat just about anyone tonight. Baylor was not just about anyone tonight. Behind an 8-of-13 start from three, Baylor knocked off Syracuse 78-69 to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears will take on Gonzaga on Saturday in the Round of 32. We’ll found out the time later.

Down 53-50 in the second half, Jared Butler took over. Makai Mason—a man who scored 16 first half points and finished with 22—left the game for a bit with an injury. While he was out, Butler made a big layup, nabbed a steal and drilled two threes while Mason sat.

At 68-65, Freddie Gillespie drilled a contested eight foot jumper. The Orange answered. Makai missed a three, grabbed his own rebound and made a two. Then everyone went a little cold.

At 72-67 with 1:10 left, Syracuse fouled Mason. He drilled both free throws to give Baylor a 74-67 lead. Syracuse drew a foul, and then Butler threw it full-court to Freddie Gillespie—a former D3 player and now one of the key rotation pieces and a frequent starter—who slammed it. Mason drilled two free throws two possessions later, and Baylor won.

The Bears seemed to have it won. They led 68-59, and Mason took a transition three. It rimmed out, and Syracuse scored the next six points. Baylor had the ball up 68-65 coming out of the final media timeout with 3:48 left. But the Orange kept battling. Baylor was just a little too good for Syracuse’s best tonight.

It’s a shame someone had to lose this kind of game. Baylor was hot. Syracuse was hot. Each team scouted wonderfully. Baylor worked Syracuse’s zone and took open threes. Syracuse forced a few timely turnovers and limited Baylor’s offensive rebounds. Nobody deserved to lose this game. But sometimes you don’t deserve the fate life gives you.

The first half was absolutely wild. Baylor finished the first half 10-of-18 from three. Syracuse went 10-of-17. The Bears attempted 78% of their shots from deep. Savannah State shoots the most threes per possession, and attempt one on 57% of their possessions.

Baylor and Syracuse combined for 28 threes. That’s the most in a game this decade. This Baylor team was picked ninth in the Big 12. They lost their best player in January. And they’ll play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.