The Bears rode Flagler’s hot hand to beat the upset-minded Frogs 76-64.
With the win over the TCU Horned Frogs (10-2, 0-1), the No. 1 Baylor Bears (15-0, 3-0) stretched their win streak to 21 straight games. Tuesday’s game against Texas Tech will be a chance to tie Kansas for the 2nd longest win streak in Big XII men’s basketball history.
The story of the game for Baylor was Adam Flagler (22 pts, 6-10 3PT) finding his stroke from beyond the arc. During the key run of the game, Flagler made 9 consecutive field goals for the Bears.
After a first half of miscues, Baylor opened the second half 5-6 from the floor and used a 9-0 run to retake the lead after falling behind 44-36 early in the second half. James Akinjo (20 pts, 8 asts) scored the shot high off the glass that gave the Bears back the lead 45-44.
Akinjo was once again the steady presence Baylor needed on the floor. His first half kept the game within striking distance, and his dishing in the second half set up 2 of Flagler’s threes.
During the run, LJ Cryer (15 pts, 4-7 3PT) came in for Matthew Mayer (5 pts, 6 rebs), who picked up three fouls in the first 2 minutes of the second half. That made it just a 1-point game. The play before, Mike Miles Jr. (26 points, 5 asts, 4-8 3PT) fell awkwardly and injured his shooting wrist. He had 22 points at the time of the injury.
Typical to fashion, TCU and its best player gave Baylor just about all it could handle. Two years ago, it was Desmond Bane dropping daggers in Fort Worth. Tonight, Miles Jr. was a man on fire.
Baylor’s game-winning run, crowned by a beautiful skip pass from Brown to Flagler for a corner three, reached 17-0 before a TCU dunk ended it. Baylor had flipped an 8-point deficit into a 9-point lead.
Baylor is now 2-0 when losing at halftime this season.
TCU’s answering 7-0 run brought the game back to a single possession with just under 12 minutes to play.
Flagler answered with a pair of threes to push the Frogs to arm’s length. Just a minute later, Baylor would use a 7-point, 5 minute run to put the game out of reach.
With Jeremy Sochan unavailable in the second half due to an ankle injury, Coach Scott Drew leaned on Brown and a three-guard lineup to increase the ball movement and pick up the outside shooting. Brown played facilitator well, using his quickness and length to dribble into the paint and kick out to shooters. Flagler’s shooting was unbelievable, but his open looks were often set up by the activity and passing vision of Brown.
Three-point shooting was the difference in the game for the Bears. Baylor was a stupendous 13-27 from deep, and it was mostly Flagler and Cryer bombing away. Flagler, especially, was unbelievable in the second half. He expertly navigated screens and found space on the outside to get free. Akinjo and Brown were keyed in on finding him.
Down the stretch of the game, TCU turned the ball over 4 times, allowing Baylor to go on a second run, stretching the score to double-digits.
First Half Struggles
TCU closed the first half on a 14-2 run. That run was keyed by 3 unforced Baylor turnovers and uncanny shotmaking from the Frogs. Miles was 3-5 from 3PT despite averaging just 31% on the season. He had 18 points before the break.
The 37-31 halftime score was the second time Baylor has trailed at half this season. The other game was a similar fight against Oregon in Eugene.
TCU also led the game at half last season, 28-27.
Baylor’s 9 turnovers lead to 10 TCU points. The Frogs weren’t exactly applying significant pressure, either. Most of those turnovers were unforced, the result of miscommunication and poor execution.
Akinjo was the only Bear who had anything going in the first half. He was 5-7 from the floor with 3 assists and 2 threes. Flagler had an ignominious stretch of poor turnovers during that TCU run before stopping the run with one of his patented pull-up 2s.
Near the end of the first half, Jeremy Sochan went down with what appeared to be a left ankle injury. He went to the locker room without putting any weight on that foot. He was in a boot for the second half. That was a major blow to the Bears’ rotation as they attempted a comeback.
Baylor’s ability to rely on its guard-play will yet again set the Bears up for a deep Tourney run. When the going got tough tonight, Drew could turn to his three lead guards, plus Brown and a center, knowing they could steady the offense and fly around on defense.
Baylor’s great defensive success was in keeping TCU from scoring second-chance points. The Frogs had only 8 points off offensive rebounds, despite corralling 12 of them. Going the other way, the Bears had a 26-15 edge in points off turnovers. There just aren’t many teams in the country that can get out in transition like Baylor.
Baylor will face the Texas Tech Red Raiders (11-3, 1-1) on Tuesday in Waco. Tech will be fresh off a home upset over Kansas.
Baylor is now the only undefeated team in Big XII Conference play.