West region No. 5 Baylor entered the NCAA tournament looking to erase the memory of last season’s early NCAA tournament exit, with a veteran group having designs on playing deep into this season’s event. Unfortunately for Scott Drew’s Bears they drew ran into Ivy League champion No. 12 Yale, and throughout most of the contest James Jones’ Bulldogs outplayed Baylor.
And despite some nerve-wracking moments late the Bulldogs pulled out the 79-75 victory, picking up the first NCAA tournament win in program history.
Makai Mason was the star for the Bulldogs, scoring 31 points (a school NCAA tournament record) as he managed to go just about wherever he wanted against the Baylor defense. Baylor’s standard matchup zone was no match for what Yale threw at them offensively, as the Bulldogs were able get through for quality looks inside the arc. The game reached a point to where Baylor had to come out of the zone and play man, and that didn’t work all that well either.
Normally in upsets the underdog gets hot from three, but that wasn’t the case in Providence. Yale shot 5-for-16 from three but made 63.6 percent of their two-point attempts. And to be fair to the Bulldogs, they looked nothing like an underdog for most of this game.
There were moments of frustration for Baylor, most notably an argument between Rico Gathers Sr. and Taurean Prince (28 points) during a second half timeout, and Yale had a lot to do with that. The Bears made a late run thanks in large part to Prince, and defensively they forced turnovers with full-court pressure to close the gap to one in the game’s final minute.
But they were unable to get any closer than that, and down two with 6.8 seconds remaining a Lester Medford turnover resulted in Baylor not getting off a shot to either tie the game or take the lead.
Baylor’s ability to control the glass has been key for them throughout the season, and they did managed to grab 14 offensive rebounds Thursday. But Yale is a good rebounding team in its own right, as they entered the game ranked in the top ten nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Thanks to the presence of players such as Justin Sears, Nick Victor, Sam Downey and Brandon Sherrod (in total seven Bulldogs average at least 2.5 rebounds per game), won the battle on the boards Thursday afternoon. Add in Yale’s superior offensive execution, and Jones’ Bulldogs were able to advance.
Next up for Yale is No. 4 Duke, which beat No. 13 UNCW in the first game of the day in Providence.