Baylor, Gonzaga players to get paid for promoting rematch

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Baylor and Gonzaga will meet in a men’s basketball game in South Dakota on Dec. 2 and organizers will pay players on both teams who agree to help promote the game.

Complete Sports Management and Range Sports announced this week that it would put on the game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.

Baylor and Gonzaga will meet for the seventh time, and first since the Bears beat the Bulldogs in the 2021 national championship game.

The game is an opportunity for players to cash in on their celebrity under name, image and likeness (NIL) rules. Matt Haberman, a spokesman for the organizers, said players would be paid for participating in “tune-in to the game” promotions on the network that televises the game.

Haberman said he couldn’t disclose the amount of payment each player would receive. Organizers were still seeking a television partner Thursday.

“We’re working to find a media partner who believes in providing this generation of student-athletes more opportunities as well as align with iconic powerhouse basketball brands Baylor and Gonzaga,” Range Sports president Will Funk said. “Engaging the players to help activate the game broadcast sponsors is the future of college athletics.”

BYU forward Lohner transferring to Baylor in his home state

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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WACO, Texas — BYU forward Caleb Lohner is transferring to Baylor, a return to his home state after two seasons with the Cougars.

Baylor coach Scott Drew said Monday that the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward had signed a financial-aid contract with the Big 12 Conference school. Lohner put his name in the transfer portal last month.

Lohner averaged 7.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in his 62 games (44 starts) with the Cougars. He shot 43.9% (167 of 380) from the field.

“We’ve known Caleb and his family since he was a sophomore in high school,” Drew said. “We have always known he would be a great fit in our program because of the type of teammate and player he is. He’s an outstanding student-athlete that our fans are really going to enjoy cheering for.”

Lohner played at Flower Mound High School in the Dallas area as a freshman and sophomore before going to Wasatch Academy in Utah from 2018-20.

BYU is moving to the Big 12 after next season.

South Dakota women shock Baylor, win 61-47

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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WACO, Texas — Hannah Sjerven scored 16 points and Chloe Lamb added 15 as 10th-seeded South Dakota beat No. 2 Baylor 61-47 on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first-time ever.

The Coyotes (29-5) scored the game’s first 11 points and led throughout against 12-time Big 12 regular-season champion Bears, who had won 17 consecutive NCAA tourney games played on their home court since 2011.

Summit League champ South Dakota was the second No. 10 seed to beat a No. 2 seed on Sunday, after Creighton won 64-62 at Iowa earlier in the day. They were the record eighth double-digit seed to win a game in the women’s tournament this year.

Queen Egbo had 13 points while two-time AP All-America forward NaLyssa Smith matched her season low with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting for the Bears (28-7), who saw the end of their streak of 12 consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Smith and Jordan Lewis each had eight rebounds.

Liv Korngable had 11 points for the Coyotes. She is the third super-senior starter, along with Summit League player of the year Lamb and Sjerven, who returned for another NCAA chance. They are now headed to Wichita next weekend.

In a building where Baylor rarely loses, the Coyotes had a loud contingency of roughly 150 fans, cheerleaders and pep band members that got to celebrate with them. The fans in the seats behind their bench stood chanting “U-S-D!” in the closing seconds, and celebrated with their team long after Baylor had left the court.

Baylor had won 66 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents since UConn won in the Ferrell Center on Jan. 13, 2014.

The Bears won their 12th consecutive Big 12 title even after losing their first two conference games with Nicki Collen, the WNBA coach who took over when three-time national champion coach Kim Mulkey left for LSU after last season. But they have their earliest NCAA tourney exit since 2008.

South Dakota, in its 10th year of Division I eligibility, is in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament, and fifth overall. But the Coyotes had never won a tourney game before the last few days.

The Coyotes had an 11-0 lead less than three minutes into the game by hitting their first four shots. Sjerven made a 3-pointer on the first shot, just like she did in their 75-61 victory over Mississippi when leading throughout in the first-round Wichita Region game Friday.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota: The Coyotes, an experienced group, played with confidence and were fearless on the road against a perennial Top 10 team while becoming on the second Summit League team to make the Sweet 16. Along with the three super seniors, South Dakota had two second-year freshmen in the starting lineup.

Baylor: The Bears shot a season-low 31.5% from the field (17 of 54) and were held 30 points below their season average in scoring. Their had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, and 19 overall that led to 22 points for South Dakota. Baylor had only two points off the 14 USD turnovers.

Tar Heels survive ejection, big rally, beat ’21 champ Baylor

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas – So much for the idea that North Carolina is soft against top-tier competition. These Tar Heels are going to the Sweet 16 after knocking off the defending champions.

No, it wasn’t easy. The Tar Heels blew a 25-point second-half lead after Brady Manek was ejected for a wild elbow and starting guard Caleb Love fouled out, and they had some issues when top-seeded Baylor turned up the full-court pressure. But they never fell behind, played with poise in overtime and pulled out a 93-86 victory Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“All year we’ve just been hearing different things about us, how we’re a soft team, how we don’t like to fight,” All-Atlantic Coast Conference power forward Armando Bacot said. “Today, I think we really showed that we can fight. To persevere in a moment like that and just come together, I’m just so proud of everyone.”

RJ Davis scored a career-high 30 points with a nifty layup while being fouled in overtime, when Bacot made the tiebreaking free throws after missing three in the final 38 seconds of regulation. Bacot had 15 points and 16 rebounds, along with three blocked shots.

A year after losing in the first round of the tourney in coach Roy Williams’ final game, the Tar Heels (26-9) pulled off a shocker for his successor, Hubert Davis, who moves on to the East Region semifinals in Philadelphia.

“Baylor’s a great team. They’re the defending national champions, and they did not want to go home,” Davis said. “They stepped up their effort, but we stepped up our effort as well and we were able to make the plays we needed to make to win the game.”

Overtime started with a 3-pointer by freshman Dontrez Styles, who was 2 of 14 from long range on the season before that. RJ Davis, who had five 3-pointers in regulation, got his only points in overtime on the off-balance layup with 1:18 left and added the free throw for a 91-85 lead.

“I didn’t want to go home. There was no time to be tired,” Davis said. “Our mindset was gather my teammates together and regrouping and to contain our composure and let’s get this win.”

Adam Flagler had 27 points for Baylor (27-7), which was 1-of-11 shooting in overtime. James Akinjo had 20 points while Jeremy Sochan had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Tar Heels won as a No. 8 seed over a top seed for third time. They did so on the way to the Final Four in 2000, 10 years after after beating top-seeded Oklahoma when Davis was a player for Dean Smith.

North Carolina had double-digit losses to Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest, and was on the NCAA bubble before winning seven of its last eight regular-season games. That included a 94-81 win at Duke in retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game.

Baylor lost in the second round for the second time in the last three NCAA tourneys. The Bears, who fell to top-seeded Gonzaga in the round of 32 three years ago, were trying to match the biggest comeback to win an NCAA Tournament game.

“Rudy Tomjanovich said it best, never underestimate the heart of a champion,” coach Scott Drew said, fighting back tears. “You’re down 25 and come back and force overtime. Real proud of these guys and the heart with which they compete. I think the perseverance they showed, the resilience all year. Spiritually, they’ve been a great group. They’ve really grown. We didn’t win on the court, but we’ve won in life.”

Manek had 26 points before getting ejected because of a flagrant foul with 10:08 left in regulation after his left elbow to the face of Sochan as they were battling underneath the Baylor basket. Manek had just drained a 3-pointer that gave the Tar Heels their largest lead at 67-42.

With Manek out, and Love fouling out soon after that, the Tar Heels had 10 turnovers as Baylor turned up the pressure and made a furious rally.

“It was just crazy because their press, they was turning us over a lot and then we weren’t making free throws,” Bacot said. “There was a lot of pressure in those moments. But, I mean, it was just a next-play mentality and we just really had to dig in and just keep pushing and just keep a level head. And luckily, we came out with a win.”

The Bears got within 76-73 on a three-point play with 1:48 left by Akinjo, who had another one with 16 seconds left to tie the game at 80-80. North Carolina had one more shot, but Davis’ 3-point try hit off the front of the rim.

“We knew that our team wasn’t going to give up,” Flagler said.

Baylor scored 11 straight points in less than two minutes after Manek’s ejection. Sochan made the second free throw before having an assist on a layup by Flagler, who then had consecutive 3s off UNC turnovers. The Bears moved within 67-53 when Akinjo hit two free throws after Bacot was called for a technical foul as the two tumbled to the floor.

Things got testy midway through the first half, and Sochan got a technical foul when he appeared to lock his legs together and almost pull Bacot to the floor with him.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: With ex-coach Williams in Dickies Arena, which is less than 100 miles from Baylor’s campus, Davis scored the Tar Heels’ first eight points in an 80-second span after the Bears had a quick 4-0 lead. North Carolina never trailed again. Baylor tied it just before the end of regulation and once in overtime.

Baylor: The Bears outscored North Carolina 38-13 over the final 10 minutes of regulation. They fell just short of matching BYU, which overcame a 25-point first-half deficit to beat Iona in a First Four game in 2012.

BUNCH OF HELPERS

North Carolina had 22 assists on its 28 field goals, two days after 29 assists on 34 baskets against Marquette. Davis became the first Tar Heels player with 10 assists in one NCAA tourney game and 30 points in the next. He had six assists against Baylor, matching Leaky Black for the team lead.

UP NEXT

North Carolina will play in its 35th Sweet 16 against either UCLA or Saint Mary’s.

Defending champ Baylor opens with 85-49 win over Norfolk St

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Matthew Mayer just knew it was a perfect pass he turned into a half-ending breakaway dunk for defending national champion Baylor. He wasn’t really sure what happened before he got the ball.

“I thought it was like a rebound or something, and then all of sudden the ball was just right in front of me,” Mayer said. “I was like, `Wow, that was great.”‘

Mayer scored a career-high 22 points, including that punctuating half-ending dunk with a salute, as the top-seeded Bears opened the NCAA Tournament with an 85-49 victory over Norfolk State on Thursday.

Jeremy Sochan did grab a rebound to start the play, and got credited with an assist on Mayer’s dunk.

“I didn’t really pass it to him, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it,” the pink-haired Sochan said with a chuckle.

After Joe Bryant tumbled to the floor when missing a layup, Sochan took a couple of dribbles while still in the lane. Norfolk State’s Tyrese Jenkins then reached from behind and swatted the ball out of his hands – into the air past midcourt, where it bounced once to a breaking Mayer, who got past Terrance Jones for the dunk.

“First, I should have dumped it off to my big man, who was wide open. I fell, so I couldn’t really see what happened,” said Bryant, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year who had 15 points.

Freshman standout Sochan had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Bears (27-6), who had to travel less than 100 miles from their Waco campus for the East Region opener and first NCAA tourney game at Dickies Arena. They will play the North Carolina-Marquette winner in the second round Saturday.

Mayer, who finished 8-of-12 shooting with four 3s, directed a salute with his left hand toward the Spartans’ pep band after the dunk with the Bears up 43-27 at halftime.

“A big play, a big play, to end the first half,” Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said.

Jenkins hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring in the second half, but Norfolk State never got closer.

The 16th-seeded Spartans (24-7) were playing 10 years and a day after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. They were a No. 15 seed and 21 1/2-point underdog when they beat Missouri 86-84.

Norfolk State was one of the biggest underdogs in first-round games this year, at 20 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and never came close this time.

“At some stretches, I think we let the moment get away from us a little bit,” Jones said.

Flo Thamba scored 14 points and Adam Flagler had 11 points for the Bears. James Akinjo, the graduate transfer from Arizona who also previously played at Georgetown, had 10 points and 10 assists in his first-ever NCAA tourney game.

Baylor, which shot 57% from the field and made 11 3-pointers, led throughout. Flagler hit a 3 and made a nifty floater in the lane to make it 5-0.

“It was fun to watch. Not many things to complain about this game for sure,” said coach Scott Drew, a week after Baylor lost in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. “I think that was a conscious effort of everybody to come out and be a lot more aggressive in both halves. And we did that, and set the tone early.”

BIG PICTURE

Norfolk State: Senior guard Jalen Hawkins, the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.4 points a game, didn’t play the first half because of a violation of team rules. “Integrity first,” Jones said when asked about what led to Hawkins being penalized. The guard didn’t enter the game until 16:45 remained and the Spartans were down 56-35 by time he took his first shot two minutes later – an airball on a long 3-pointer. He then came out of the game, and never returned.

Baylor: Mayer has been inconsistent at times this season as a full-time starter after no starts his first three seasons. But the 6-foot-9 senior is a high-energy player on both ends of the floor who can score in bunches. He could have a huge impact in the tourney with the Bears missing their big man known as “Everyday Jon.” Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua suffered a season-ending left knee injury Feb. 12.

FLO’S FAMILY

Thamba’s French-speaking parents saw him play a college game in person for the first time. Earlier this month, he saw his sister for the first time in 10 years when she came from England for his senior day.

“After the game, after the buzzer came off and it went off and then just walking on the side, seeing them smiling and cheering, it meant a lot to me. It was special,” said Thamba, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, grew up in South Africa and also lived in England and France before coming to the United States.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears have advanced past the first round in five consecutive NCAA appearances since opening-round losses to 14th-seeded Georgia State in 2015 and 12th-seeded Yale the following year.

Baylor is No. 1 seed in East as it opens title defense

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Baylor shook off an early loss in last season’s Big 12 Tournament to race to a national championship.

The Bears can only hope they can do it again.

Baylor’s repeat bid for a national title starts in the East Region against Norfolk State. The Bears are the top seed in the East and open the tournament Thursday close to home in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Bears (26-6) are a No. 1 seed for the second straight season and only the second time in program history. Their potential path out of the region — which plays Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Philadelphia — includes No. 8 North Carolina, No. 4 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky.

Baylor, which still has never won a Big 12 Tournament men’s title, won six straight games last season and beat Gonzaga in Indianapolis to win the school’s first national championship.

Baylor won five straight games before it was upset by Oklahoma in the Big 12 tourney quarterfinals.

“Any time you lose, it’s a chance to hit the reset button. It refocuses everyone,” coach Scott Drew said. “From that, the players are going to practice harder, the coaches are going to be more dialed in. I think we’ll be ready to put our best foot forward come tournament time. … It did give us a chance to rest, it did give us a chance to reset and refocus. Hopefully, that pays off for us.”

TOUGH CLIMB

Norfolk State won the MEAC regular-season and tournament championships and is making its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. NSU, which beat Coppin State in the MEAC Tournament final, defeated Appalachian State in the First Four last season before losing to Gonzaga in the first round. The win was NSU’s first in the NCAA Tournament since it beat Missouri in 2012.

BLUE BLOOD BATTLES

Second-seeded Kentucky is back in the tournament for the first time since 2019.

The Wildcats were 9-16 last season but coach John Calipari got a quick turnaround going and they put the smack down this season on tournament teams Tennessee (28-point win), Kansas (18 points) and North Carolina (29 points).

The Wildcats play No. 15 seed St. Peter’s in the first round.

North Carolina is in the bracket as the eighth seed and plays Marquette. The Tar Heels won 12 of their final 15 games, with the biggest a win over Duke in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. UNC lost in the first round last season.

PURDUE POWER

Purdue failed to win the Big Ten title on Sunday but the Boilermakers earned a stout No. 3 seed in the East. The Boilermakers play Yale and here’s one reason to think Purdue could be a contender: It’s back to playing nonconference teams. All seven of Purdue’s losses came in conference play. Purdue earned it’s first No. 1 ranking in The AP Top 25 poll in December.

Jaden Ivey is a likely lottery pick and Matt Painter is regarded as one of the best coaches in the country. But Purdue was upset last season as the No. 4 seed and the Boilermakers have never made a Final Four under Painter.

Purdue lost to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament final. Purdue hasn’t won the league tourney since 2009.

“You get kind of to the end and it’s a little bit different, but I think really what we learn is just you’ve got to lay it on the line. You get yourself in close games, especially on a neutral court, like anything can happen, but you’ve got to play better,” Painter said Sunday. “You’ve got to be more efficient, you’ve got to be able to defend.”

HOOSIER HOPE

Indiana is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

The Hoosiers will play Wyoming on Tuesday in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. If the Hoosiers win, they will play fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s in the East.

Indiana beat top-seeded Illinois, the regular-season co-champ, to reach the Big Ten Tournament semis and they beat eighth-seeded Michigan in the quarters. And they lost to No. 24 Iowa on Saturday when Jordan Bohannon banked in a tie-breaking 3-pointer from about 35 feet away with 0.8 seconds left and as the shot clock was about to expire. Iowa won 80-77

“Those two games were huge for us, and everyone is looking forward to going down to Dayton and playing against Wyoming because everyone knows we haven’t been to the tournament since 2016 so it’s huge for our state, huge for our fan base, and everyone is looking forward to it,” IU guard Rob Phinisee said.

ROAD TO NEW ORLEANS

When in doubt, go with No. 1. Baylor faces a long haul to win another championship — no team has won back-to-back titles since Florida in 2005-06, and 2006-07 under Billy Donovan. But playing close to home early should help the Bears, and they could roll that early success all the way to New Orleans.

“Really excited about Fort Worth. The guys worked really hard to make that happen, getting a No. 1 seed two years in a row,” Drew said of having to travel only about 90 miles from the Waco campus. “The perks of that are playing in Fort Worth.”