Prior to Thursday point guard Makai Mason’s last experience in the NCAA tournament came as a Yale Bulldog in 2016, as he scored 31 points in a win over Baylor. Now a senior at Baylor, Mason led the Bears to an NCAA tournament win as he scored 22 points in the Bears’ 78-69 win over West Region No. 8 Syracuse in Salt Lake City.
In a game that saw the two teams combine for an NCAA tournament-record (in a non-overtime game) 28 three-pointers, Scott Drew’s team did the better job of buckling down defensively in the second half. Baylor limited Syracuse to 31 percent shooting from the field and 3-for-12 shooting in the second half while making 52 percent of its field goal attempts.
For the game Baylor shot 53.8 percent from the field and made 16 three-pointers, with Jared Butler and Mario Kegler joining Mason in double figures with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Elijah Hughes, who scored 18 points in the first half, led Syracuse with a game-high 25 points. Tyus Battle added 16 and Oshae Brissett 14 for the Orange, who played without senior point guard Frank Howard as he was suspended indefinitely earlier this week for a violation of athletic department policy.
Syracuse shot 9-for-17 from three in the first half, but the inability to continue to find quality looks against Baylor’s matchup zone proved costly. The Bears were balanced offensively in the second stanza, with four of the seven players who scored tallying between six and eight points, and as a result Baylor moves on.
Next up for Baylor is No. 1 Gonzaga, which blew out No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson.