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Baylor Earns Big Win Over Alabama 73-68

Kegler is emerging as a key player for the Bears

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears (13-6) notched another huge win in the second half of the season over the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-7) with a final score of 73-68. Baylor saw contributions from all over the roster. Mario Kegler (17 Pts, 7 Rebs) led all scorers, while Makai Mason (13 Pts, 3 Rebs, 4 Asts) iced another win for Baylor with supreme scoring off the glass and two free throws in the final minute to make it a two-possession game.

Flo Thamba (5 Rebs, 2 Blks) had a huge block on Kira Lewis (15 Pts, 5 Rebs, 6 Asts) late to preserve Baylor’s 63-61 lead. He had a massive rebound in traffic with under a minute left. His play late helped Baylor hold off the Tide. Devonte Bandoo (4 Pts, 2 Stls), who was quiet all game, scored 4 huge points for the Bears in the final 2 minutes. Tevin Mack (15 Pts, 7-13 FG), who was the game’s leading scorer for much of the game, shot an ill-advised fadeaway two with a little over a minute left and wasted one of Alabama’s final few possessions. Baylor’s 4 wide-out inbound play helped break the press and led to an easy dunk for Gillespie.

In answer, Riley Norris (16 Pts) hit his 4th three on as many attempts. He only made 10 threes prior to today’s game. His three made it a 69-66 Baylor lead.

Lewis missed a layup following Mason’s free throws that would have made it a one-possession game in the final 10 seconds.

The offenses seemed to switch in the second half, with Alabama hitting multiple threes while Baylor made its way to the basket for high percentage looks. After shooting 6-14 from three in the first half, Baylor missed all 8 of its second half threes. Alabama, meanwhile, hit 4 threes in the second half after hitting only 1 in the first.

Matthew Mayer (9 Pts, 5 Rebs, 3 Asts) had his most complete game as a Bear today. He had two key assists in transition to extend Baylor’s lead to 36-30 at the half and found Freddie Gillespie (8 Pts, 4-6 FG) on the baseline for an easy dunk. Mayer limited his poor shot attempts today, often making the right play with the ball.

Mark Vital and Jared Butler were solid contributors, as well. Vital lived at the rim this game. Not including a ridiculous 360 slam after the whistle, Vital recorded 3 dunks on the game, accounting for all 6 of his points. Butler (9 Pts, 4 Rebs, 5 Asts, 1 Stl) had his fingerprints all over the game.

Baylor won today’s game despite a relatively poor shooting game. The Bears finished 45% from the floor and 27% from deep, while Alabama was 51% and 29%, respectively.

Through 35 minutes of play, Baylor collected more offensive rebounds (14) than defensive (12). The final count of 19 defensive rebounds and 16 offensive rebounds was why Baylor won this game despite its poor second half shooting.

The first half was a battle of styles. Baylor relied on the outside shot, while Alabama was 13-19 inside the arc. It wasn’t until the final three minutes of the half that Alabama scored outside the paint. On the other end, Baylor rode 6-14 (40%) shooting from deep to keep them in the game. The Tide’s defensive plan to defend pick-and-rolls was to have the weak side defender tag the roll man. Baylor punished them with two threes on those plays, including the opening bucket of the game from Butler.

Down the stretch of the half, Mayer hit Mason for a wide-open transition three, followed by a transition dish to Vital for a huge dunk. Mayer’s smartest sequence in his young career helped Baylor close the half with a 6 point lead.

Through the first 13 minutes, it was Kegler who scored the answering buckets when it seems like Alabama might take control. Scoring 11 of Baylor’s first 22 points, he opened his scoring day with a put-back slam and retied the game with a fall-away corner three.

Size was clearly an issue for the Bears from the start. Dribble penetration from Lewis and Ingram opened up a lot of the easy looks for the bigs. Alabama scored its first 26 points on point-blank looks. Hall and Mack easily scored over Baylor’s interior, and Lewis streaked down the floor for a couple of transition buckets following two Baylor turnovers.

The first half saw only two total free throws.

Mason left the game during the first half to be treated for a gushing head wound delivered by Hall going for a rebound. He returned to the game before halftime and seemed totally unfazed. As he’s demonstrated many times this season, Mason is one tough ombre.

Baylor’s next game will be Monday night in Norman against the Oklahoma Sooners. Tip-off time is 8PM.