An impressive 2nd half push just wasn’t enough for the Bears to overcome a 19 point deficit, falling to TCU 85-81. After managing to pull within 10 points around the 10 minute mark, Baylor hung around that margin until there were only 3 minutes remaining, when a Mark Vital and-one brought the margin to 8 points. From there, a couple of poor plays by Robinson allowed Baylor to get out in transition and to draw fouls, scoring quickly to come within 4 with one minute remaining. TCU twice had the chance to ice the game at the line but failed to convert the front end free throw. King McClure’s transition bucket brought Baylor within 2. After a pair of free throws extended the lead back to 4, Makai Mason’s own and-one brought the Bears within 1 point with 16 seconds remaining before a pair of Alex Robinson free throws essentially iced the game, Mason missing a decent look from three that could have sent the game into overtime.
Tristan Clark led the Bears with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. He handled double-teams well most of the game, but he did have a few turnovers inside in the second half when 3 or 4 TCU defenders crashed into the paint. He wasn’t as efficient as he usually is, but he helped keep Baylor afloat.
Speaking of, Matthew Mayer is still an erratic player with the potential to carry the scoring for stretches. While he took some truly unconscionable shot attempts, he finished the game with 17 points on surprisingly efficient shooting, going 5-9 overall and 2-3 from three. His defense gave some of that back on backdoor cuts, but his shot fell today and was probably the one who kept this game getting away from Baylor in the second half.
The first half belonged to TCU’s Desmond Bane, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the first period. His scoring game from every level, dropping 3-4 from deep and hammering home several dunks. Perhaps the only reason Baylor was able to draw the game within 1 point in the closing minute was because Bane fouled out with several minutes still remaining. Robinson (18 points, 10 assists) was excellent most of the game, only committing a couple of grievous mistakes down the stretch that gave Baylor life.
Baylor closed the first half by allowing 5 free throws in the final 10 seconds. Three of those free throws came with less than 1 second on the clock when Mason fouled a 2/3 court heave after turning the ball over. With just under 6 minutes remaining in the half, Baylor managed to close the gap to 6 points, but those 5 free throws, combined with a few live ball turnovers, allowed TCU to balloon the lead to 12 points.
Baylor continues to be an enigma. It can honestly be difficult to say how exactly they came back in this game. There is never a flurry of threes, no sequence of steals and dunks. They simply chip away, going on 6 or 7 point runs, giving a couple points back, then going on another 5 or 6 point run using solid defense and semi-transition offense. TCU still shot nearly 57% from the field for the game, but 11 Horned Frog turnovers and 15 missed free throws gave Baylor just enough life. If the Bears could have done better from the line themselves (19-27) or from three (4-16), this game was theirs for the taking.
Vital had one of his better offensive games, scoring 11 points on 4-5 shooting, along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. His effort and playmaking, combined with Mason’s 15 points and 5-6 shooting from the line, nearly won the game for Baylor down the stretch. Mason was ineffective most of the game, though, shooting only 30% from the floor. He has to be a more efficient scorer, a tough call when his fellow perimeter players can’t shoot worth anything.
If Baylor is to make any noise in the Big XII this season, Devonte Bandoo, Darius Allen, or Jared Butler have to catch fire from deep. The Bears counted perhaps too much on Allen and Bandoo to bolster the backcourt. Those two have now both fallen almost out of the rotation completely. Allen has, at least, and Bandoo is on his way there. Butler looks nice attacking close outs, but he needs a more impactful shot than a smooth push shot off the glass.
Baylor’s next game will be in Waco Monday against Iowa State, who are well on their way to a victory over Kansas at the time of writing. With the Bears’ following game against the Jayhawks, Baylor could be in for a tough 0-3 start to conference play.