The No. 1 Baylor Bears (10-0) extended their non-conference win streak to 34 games with a hard fought 78-70 victory against the Oregon Ducks (6-6) in Eugene. The come from behind win was spurred by freshman Kendall Brown (17 pts, 4 rebs), who scored 15 second half points, including 5 dunks on the night. James Akinjo (17 pts, 6 ast) iced the game with free throws.
Adam Flagler (16 pts, 4 ast) finally found his shooting stroke in this game. He was 5-7 from deep with all five makes coming in the first half, where he was the lone bright spot offensively.
While Oregon indisputably controlled the first half of the game, Baylor locked in defensively after the first media timeout of the second half. At that point, Oregon still led 43-42. Over the next 9 minutes, Baylor outscored the Ducks 21 to 8.
It was in that stretch the Brown was unlocked. He found space coming off the baseline for lobs, and he attacked in transition. Brown made it his mission to attack the rim, especially in transition. His athleticism can turn an entire game, and it did tonight. His determination gave him 15 second half points and forced Quincy Guerrier ( pts, 4 rebs), who had a massive first half, to foul out of the game.
De’Vion Harmon, a former Oklahoma stand-out, was looking for revenge against a former Big XII rival team. He scored a game-high 18 points, but most of those points came in the first half.
Offensive rebounding and shot making were the story of the first half for the Ducks. Harmon and Guerrier were fantastic attacking closeouts and shooting from outside. Meanwhile, Dante was a problem inside. He finished the second-chance opportunities created by team rebounding on offense. Oregon recorded 6 offensive rebounds just in the first half, leading to 8 points. Harmon finished the half with 13 points on only 8 attempts.
Baylor stayed within reach thanks to some sharp shooting from outside, where the Bears were 9-14. Flagler by himself was 5-6 from three, accounting for nearly half of the teams total points in the first half. Even Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua (10 pts, 9 rebs, 4-5 FG) drained one from outside! Baylor struggled to get the ball into the paint, unable to take advantage of the zone defense thrown out by Dana Altman. Baylor had multiple scoring droughts stretching 3 minutes or longer. Meanwhile on defense, this was not the locked-in team that faced Villanova on Sunday. Closeouts were careless, rotations were late, and help defense just didn’t get there in time. Baylor also lost shooters in transition. That gave Oregon easy looks that they gratefully converted.
In contrast, Oregon had only 2 second chance points in the second half. While the Bears allowed another 5 offensive rebounds, they forced 9 turnovers. Starting after that first media timeout, Baylor turned up the heat on defense, forcing 4 turnovers on three steals. On the night, Baylor scored 16 points off of turnovers. That shift in the second half flipped the energy of the game. Oregon was out of rhythm in the second half after a first half in which they could not miss.
With this win, Baylor avoided the curse of being the unanimous No. 1 team. The last three No. 1 teams have lost in the last three weeks in upset losses.
Baylor’s 2021 concludes with Alcorn State on December 20th and Northwestern State on December 28th. Both games will be played in the Ferrell Center.
Baylor announced today a partnership with the city of Waco to construct the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion, a new basketball arena that will be located just on the downtown side of I-35 along the Brazos River. The renderings are delightful.