“I gotta finish. That’s it. That’s all I was thinking. But we’re onto the next,“ George commented afterwards.
Let’s wind it back a little farther. With the ball up two, 1 minute remaining, Scott Drew turned the ball over to George (27 pts, 6 rebs, 2 asts) to make what felt like the decisive play of the game.
As Adam Flagler (13 pts, 6 asts) came to screen for George, George drove away from the screen, drawing a foul for his 11th and 12th free throws of the game. Both were true, and Baylor led by two possessions.
Mike Miles Jr., who had a career high 33 in his first win against the Bears, was determined to hold on. His three shrunk the lead to just 1. With 15 seconds remaining and an 87-86 lead, Bridges missed his three wide left, giving TCU a chance to win the game with 10.1 seconds left.
Miles drove left, dropped it off to Chuck O’Bannon, and he drained the short corner jumper to give the TCU Horned Frogs the 88-87 win over the Baylor Bears.
O’Bannon praised his team leader after the game: “Everybody in the gym knew that Mike was supposed to shoot the ball, but Baylor threw two guys at him, and he told me, ‘If they throw two at me, I’m throwing it to you, so, that’s just the chemistry that Mike and me built over the years.”
“It’s a big option there for us, Chuck in that corner. You just haven’t seen it much lately…he hasn’t shot it well. I put him in there, and I don’t think my assistants were excited by my decision to put him in for that play,” TCU coach Jaime Dixon joked.
For the Bears, the game came down to transition defense. TCU scored 23 fast break points, with Miles repeatedly blowing by his defender to get left and to the rim.
That also led to the disparity in paint points, where the Frogs outscored Baylor 52-24.
“Offensively, we don’t get as much at the rim as we used to,” Drew commented after the game. “Right now we’re playing more freshman than anyone in the league, (by) minutes,” Drew offered as a potential source of where more rim scoring can come from. “Jalen (Bridges), I thought made some threes, but Jalen is more than capable of being a double-figure scorer. We gotta get him get some easies at the rim, driving more.”
The Bears shot a light’s out 9-13 from three in the first half. At the start of the game, Baylor had taken all 5 of their shots from three, starting 4-5. The question remained: could the Bears find offense when the outside shot wasn’t falling?
The 17-point blown lead answers that question with a resounding, “No.”
“We had a lead, and, we blew it. Gotta go back and get better,” George said when asked about how the first half defense failed to translate to the second half.
“We talked about it in the locker room,” Cryer said. “For the past couple games we’ve let come out in the second half and get runs. We talked about it, to keep our foot on the gas, but, they were the aggressors in the second half.”
And Miles was that aggressor. The game’s leading scorer had just 12 of his 33 points in the first half but came out on fire the second half. He scored 12 of TCU’s first 14 points in the second half to bring the score to 61-56 with 12 minutes to go. Baylor, meanwhile, scored only on free throws for more than a 6-minute stretch. The Bears were just 1-11 in the 11-0 run that frittered away the once 17-point lead.
As the game got tight in the second half, it didn’t seem that the team totally let the pressure get to them. The Bears were 20-23 on free throws in the second half, many of which came when the score was within a single possession. Yet, the team that was 11-24 from three (46%) and 28-33 from the line (85%) came away with a loss tonight for perhaps the simplest reason in basketball.
They couldn’t keep the other team away from the rim.
It will be something that has to be addressed before Saturday, when the Kansas State Wildcats come to town in Jerome Tang’s first game in Waco since taking the job in Manhattan this offseason. KSU is a team that thrives cutting to the basket and has their own star in Keyontae Johnson who is a mismatch nightmare for a Baylor team lacking a true wing defender.
A Scott Drew Baylor team hasn’t gone 0-3 to start conference play since 2006. This team is far more talented than in those days when Curtis Jarrells, Henry Dugan, and Kevin Rogers were freshman. But in today’s Big 12? There is no end to the challenge.