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Baylor Bears Run Away from UC Santa Barbara 74-56 to Advance

Baylor outscored the Gauchos by 19 points in the second half

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Down by 1 going into halftime, the 3-seed Baylor Bears locked in to beat the 14-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 74-56 behind 33 combined points from Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer. Baylor advances to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament and will face the winner of the (6) Creighton Bluejays and the (10) NC State Wolfpack.

The first half was competitive, largely thanks to Baylor’s lack of outside shooting (2-7 3PT) and UCSB’s ability to get inside and score in the paint. The Gauchos were 14-20 from 2-point range with 28 paint points. Baylor focused on double-teaming the ball out of Ajay Mitchell’s hands but didn’t have the connectedness needed on the back end to keep the ball out of the paint.

In the second half, Baylor played with much more force, effort, and determination. The threes started falling (6-15 3PT) and they held the Big West champions to just 20 second-half points. Mitchell, the Big West player of the year, finished the game with 13 points and 4 assists but was 5-12 from the floor.

Baylor couldn’t have advanced today without big contributions from the BYU transfer Caleb Lohner. Lohner had a season high scoring day with 13 points, but more importantly was a perfect 5-5 from the floor and from the line (2-2) along with 5 rebounds. His first half scoring kept Baylor in the game early when the three wasn’t falling. The effort, too, seemed to lift his teammates.

Scott Drew went deep on his center rotation today, using all of Flo Thamba (10 minutes), Jonathan Tchamwa Tchachoua (17) and Josh Ojianwuna (12). While only Tchamwa Tchachoua was particularly effective (4 points, 9 rebounds compared to a combined 1 point and 5 rebounds from Thamba and Ojianwuna), the rotation helped keep the bigs fresh on the defensive end.

Langston Love made his return after going out against Oklahoma State on February 27th with a scratched cornea. He wasn’t a big contributor (0 points, 1 Reb, 1 ast in 5 min), but it was good to see him able to get back on the floor. Baylor will need his driving and physicality at the guard position as they advance in the Tournament. Keyonte George, too, will need to step up his efficiency (9 points on 2-9 shooting, 3 Rebs, 1 ast) for Baylor to reach its true ceiling.

Of course, Baylor really will go as far as Flagler and Cryer can carry them. The two lead guards were excellent in the second half, helping Baylor to go on a 14-2 run over 6 minutes down the stretch that separated the Bears. Flagler played 37 minutes with 18 points and 5 assists. He will continue to bear a big load as the rock of this team.

With upsets to Arizona and Virginia in yesterday’s games, a path for Baylor to advance deep is opening up. If Baylor’s defense can be as intense as it was in the second half today, it’s not hard to imagine another great run for Scott Drew and crew.