I’m not sure another Baylor team could beat an NCAA Tournament team when the Bear’s two best players have a night like this. Jared Butler, the Big 12’s best player went 2-of-10 from the field, and Davion Mitchell went 0-of-4 from beyond the arc and missed over half his shots.
But the Bears were able to use their bench to effectively overcome the struggles from their top two players. Baylor beat Oklahoma 76-61, and the Sooners might be a little lucky with their shooting that they kept it that close.
Adam Flagler, after struggling in his return from COVID-19 protocols, finished with 15 points and hit three triples. Scott Drew told me in the press conference that Flagler, “had good practices this week.” And he noted that Flagler looked like his old self. What he flashed against Illinois and in his one season at Presbyterian appears to be back.
Matthew Mayer also played phenomenally. He finished with 16 points on just 10 shots. But perhaps most impressively, as Oklahoma’s pick-and-roll defense stymied Baylor’s attack in the first half, Mayer hit Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua on the roll for an easy bucket. When Mayer can create plays like that, it adds another disaster trying to defend the Bears.
MaCio Teague had a fantastic game, finishing with 17 points and 4-of-6 from deep. He leads the league in 3-point percentage during conference play.
The Bears are a tier better than all non-Gonzaga teams (and they hope they’re able to beat Gonzaga if the world gives us the game we deserve in the last weekend of the season) because of what Mitchell and Butler and Teague can do on offense and defense, and what Mark Vital can add defensively. But they’re also fantastic because of what the bench provides.
They even found nine minutes for LJ Cryer tonight. Cryer’s fantastic, and the 2022 and 2023 Bears are in a wonderful spot with him. But the team is too deep for him to play most evenings. Drew mentioned after the game that, “the fast paced game” tonight allowed them to find a role for Cryer. He drilled a three from about eight feet behind the line. He’ll do that plenty going forward.
This was an impressive win. Oklahoma will shoot better from the arc in the rematch, but Butler and Teague will be better too. The problem for the Sooners—and the rest of the country—is that the Bears are far deeper than Butler and Teague.