It took 20 minutes for Baylor to wake up, but once they did, it was over.
The No. 3 seed Bears got 21 points from Al Freeman and 19 points from Terry Maston, both of whom came off the bench, as they knocked off No. 14 New Mexico State, 91-73, in an East Region first round game in Tulsa on Friday. Mason and Freeman scored 25 of those 40 points in the first half, and the Bears needed every one of them; New Mexico State took a 40-38 lead into the break as Baylor’s all-american center Johnathan Motley finished the first 20 minutes with just four points, one board and two fouls.
In the second half, however, Baylor’s talent took over.
Motley finished with 15 points, nine boards, three assists, two blocks and just those two fouls and Jo Lual-Acuil added 16 points. All told, Baylor’s top three front court players finished with a total of 50 points.
And at the end of the day, that’s what Baylor is going to have to do to be able to make a run in this event. They don’t have great guards and they aren’t a great three-point shooting team, but they are big, they are athletic and they are willing to pound the ball into the paint.
The Bears will advance to the second round of the tournament, where they will get a date with either No. 6 seed SMU or No. 11 seed USC on Sunday.
That game will create a quite interesting story line for Baylor, as head coach Scott Drew has had his named linked with a number of high-major jobs that are currently open. The Baylor brand is not exactly something that a coach wants to be attached to right now, and if there are good jobs available, it may make sense for Drew to chase them. As much success as Drew has had Baylor, he’s made that job appear to be better than it really is.