The No. 4 Baylor Bears (18-3, 6-2) were unable to match the effort or physicality of the Alabama Crimson Tide (14-7, 4-4) in a 87-78 loss. The Bears led for only 2:16 of the game as Alabama dominated from wire-to-wire.
Baylor falls to 7-2 in the Big XII-SEC Challenge, and Alabama continues to be the most enigmatic power conference team in the country.
Baylor was able to bring the game to 74-71 with four minutes remaining following a James Akinjo score. Then Alabama went on a 6-0 run to push the lead back to 8 and put the game away. Freshman JD Davison had the exclamation point dunk after picking Akinjo’s pocket near half court.
It was clear early in the game that the referees were going to allow a tremendous amount of physicality in this game. Several Baylor players were knocked to the floor with nary a whistle about. Fouls were relatively even throughout the game, but Alabama was clearly more comfortable with the level of physical play.
A bigger problem than the physicality, though, was Baylor’s inability to contain the driving ability of the Tide’s guards, particularly Jahvon Quinerly. The senior guard for Alabama scored 20 points on just 10 shots, along with 5 assists. He blew past defenders all throughout the first half and for much of the second, forcing Scott Drew to play a small ball lineup down 10 with ten minutes remaining in the game. Drew felt he needed more quickness on the floor to guard off the dribble.
Jaden Shackelford added 19 points, and Juwan Gary scored 15 for the Tide.
That change paid off on offense, as well, where the small lineup freed up motion and space for Baylor to get to the rim. The Bears drew within 5 points on an Adam Flagler three, and it seemed like Baylor had a chance to draw the game back in with 8 minutes remaining. Quinerly answered with a three of his own, though, and then with a three-point play to push the lead back to 9.
Baylor was never able to go on a true run in this game. Alabama’s effort was too high, and Baylor botched too many possessions on offense. The guards Flagler and James Akinjo (8 pts, 4-13 FG, 7 asts), in particular, either dribbled or passed into a crowd too many times. That resulted in live ball turnovers that Alabama converted into 24 points off turnovers. That was a 10 point category advantage over Baylor.
Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan, too, struggled with turnovers, although theirs tended to result in a stoppage in play. For his part, Sochan had the best game of his collegiate career so far, scoring 17 points and 8 rebounds. He showed some crafty moves backing and spinning his way to the basket, and Brown (8 points) continued to demonstrate his skill as a secondary creator.
Without sixth man LJ Cryer in this game due to foot soreness, Baylor lacked an outlet for its creators. While the Bears were able to go 9-19 from three without Cryer, the paint was a little more crowded for his absence.
Thankfully, this game will not have an impact on Baylor’s aspirations in conference play, but it was another example of how aggressive, physical teams can disrupt the guards and score in transition.