SAN ANTONIO— All of the talk leading up to Baylor’s third round matchup with Creighton was about Doug McDermott and Creighton’s offense, and for good reason. McDermott’s 27 points per game was best in the nation, but after the horn sounded on Baylor’s 85-55 win it was the other side that got the raves.
“The way (Baylor) shot the basketball, I’m not sure our best would have even been good enough tonight,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.
Baylor started the game by making nine of its first 11 shots, assisting on eight of them, and jumped out to a 26-9 lead. The Bears made their first six three-pointers, and by the time the first half buzzer sounded, Baylor led 40-20.
“(The shooting) became contagious,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “I think the big thing was when we were making threes we didn’t get three happy and just start shooting contested shots. We stayed with the game plan and made sure that we took the right shots.”
Seven different Bears scored in the game’s first 20 minutes. Every Baylor starter tallied at least six points with junior guard Kenny Cherry leading the way with nine. Junior forward Royce O’Neal scored six points and dished out six assists. Baylor didn’t let up in the second.
“We just came out of the locker room and said to ourselves we’re going to stay focused,” Cherry said. “We were not going to let down. It’s 0-0, it’s a new game.”
Senior forward Cory Jefferson knocked down a jumper to begin the second, and after Baylor missed its next two shots, they ran drained six in a row and nine of then to stretch the lead to 65-39. The Bears actually shot the ball better in the second half (64%) than they did in the first (63.6%), but that wasn’t the only end where they gave Creighton problems. Only George Washington held Creighton to fewer points in a game this season.
“They forced us to get it in the middle of that zone, and it’s hard to score over those guys they’re so long and athletic where they challenge every shot in there,” McDermott said.
He split a pair of free throws in the game’s first minute, and that was his only point until the 3:06 mark of the first half. He missed his first three shots from the field, hitting nothing but air on two. He made just one of four first half shots in the half for three points and finished the game with only 15 points, his third lowest output of the season, and for just the fourth time didn’t hit a three.
“Coach Drew had an amazing game plan coming into the game,” Baylor sophomore center Isaiah Austin said. “We were going to leave the middle wide open for them. They had a couple of players that caught the ball in there, and we knew they were pass-first players, so we wanted them to try to make the plays for their team, and it ended up working well for us.”
McDermott finishes his career with 3,150 points, fifth most in the history of college basketball, and he did it while playing for his father.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and I really wish every parent could experience what I’ve had the opportunity to experience,” the elder McDermott said. I’ve had a front row street for history, and it was my son that was doing it.”
While McDermott led Creighton in scoring, he was just one of two Blue Jays to score in double figures (junior guard Austin Chatman the other with 11), on the other hand, Baylor’s starters built on their strong first halves and all five hit double digits led by Austin and senior guard Brady Heslip’s 17. Baylor outrebounded Creighton 32-22 and committed just eight turnovers. The win gives the Bears their third trip in the last five years to the Sweet Sixteen, where they’ll take on Wisconsin Thursday night in Anaheim.
“The good thing is this time of year you just want to have to focus on somebody else rather than the season being over,” Drew said. “You play anybody in the Sweet Sixteen you know it’s going to be a great team and a great coach. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
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