Big 12 Tournament: Hot first half propels Baylor past Oklahoma


For the second consecutive night the Baylor Bears got off to a good start at the Big 12 tournament, and they earned a spot in Friday’s Big 12 semifinals as a result. Baylor shot 54.8% from the field and 6-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half, scoring 47 points on their way to a 78-73 win over two-seed Oklahoma.

Scott Drew’s Bears scored 18 of its 47 points in the paint, and they also converted six Oklahoma turnovers into 12 points. All five starters finished the game in double figures with Isaiah Austin scoring 18 points to lead the way. Cory Jefferson added a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double and Kenny Chery finished the game with 14 points and seven assists.

In some regards the victory was a mirror image of Baylor’s 76-68 win over TCU on Wednesday, with the Bears taking advantage of their ability to score in the paint to establish a solid working margin.¬†Against TCU the Bears scored 18 of their 39 first-half points in the paint, leading by 12 at the intermission as a result.

On Thursday the Bears would lead by as much as 21 early in the second half before the Sooners mounted a rally, cutting the deficit to five points with 2:34 remaining. Baylor would shoot 9-for-12 from the foul line over the final 2:07 to hold on for the win, and they’ll play either West Virginia or Texas on Friday.

It wasn’t long ago that many questioned whether or not Baylor would reach the NCAA tournament. But this is a talented group that’s playing well at the right time. And that could that make the Bears a dangerous draw when the brackets are announced on Sunday.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)