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Baylor Blasts Washington 86-52; Bears are 2-0!

Baylor had a good time in Vegas

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Behind another phenomenal shooting day, and a better defensive performance, Baylor overwhelmed Washington 86-52. The Bears are 2-0 and will take on Illinois at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

After a defensive effort that left acting head coach Jerome Tang a bit upset against Louisiana yesterday, the Bears shut down Washington’s attack. Baylor held the Huskies to .8 points per possession (PPP), which is worse than the nation’s worst offense averages. The Bears did a nice job forcing turnovers, and they made life difficult for Washington’s shooters. The Bears forced 14 turnovers, while Washington had just 12 assists.

Offensively, Baylor had another stellar evening. The Bears once again shot over 40% from deep, finishing 13-of-29 from deep. Adam Flagler went 5-of-9 from three, and he finished with 17 points. Jared Butler led the Bears with 20 points.

Mark Vital proved his value. He played both power forward and center. He collected 15 rebounds, which equaled Washington’s non-team rebounds. Vital also added eight points and kept some big possessions alive. The Bears had 21 offensive rebounds, which Tang credited to both their focus as a team, and their emphasis against Washington’s zone.

The Bears have clearly established themselves as one of the country’s two best teams. On KenPom—the leading predictive ranking system in college basketball—Gonzaga and Baylor have moved away from the field. The Bears rank No. 2 on that system, but the gap between Baylor and No. 3 Duke is bigger than the gap between Duke and No. 13 Ohio State.

Baylor has things to work on. Their frontcourt did a better job, but they’re missing some layup opportunities. Even with the best backcourt in college basketball, the Bears can’t count on shooting so well every night from three. And there are a few turnovers that Baylor will want to reduce. But those are the kinds of mistakes that separate a great team from winning the Big 12 and the national title. The Bears have flashed that potential. They’ll go to work to try and make it a reality.