BAYLOR 100, MISSOURI 89: Bears rally from double-digit deficit, defeat Tigers 100-89 for third straight Big 12 victory

by dentonramsey

BAYLOR 100, MISSOURI 89: Bears rally from double-digit deficit, defeat Tigers 100-89 for third straight Big 12 victory

By Denton Ramsey, NCAA Sportswriter/Big 12 Fans Baylor Correspondent

 

WACO, Texas – With the second half nearing the 14 minute mark, the Baylor Bears found themselves down by 13 points at home against the Missouri Tigers when Head Coach Scott Drew called a timeout.

At that time, the Bears men’s basketball team was down 69-56 with 14:16 remaining – before making the run they needed to deadlock the game, and eventually win the contest.

“This team, we have been through so much we were just thinking in our heads that there is just too much time left,” Baylor junior forward Kevin Rogers said. “Early leads mean nothing. We were able to come out and execute and play how we know how to play. Any lead is easy to break into, we just need to slow ourselves down and get back to the basics and get stops and score.”

Shortly thereafter, Baylor (20-8, 8-6 Big 12) did just that – clawing past prior problems by pressing the opponents in the backcourt, playing daunting team defense and garnering sharp shooting from the Bears gifted guards – to pull off an 11-point victory, 100-89, against Missouri (15-14, 5-9).

The BU guards, proving throughout the season that they can and will successfully survive by making a high percentage of their shots from beyond the arc, went on a patented Bears run – scoring 14 unanswered behind consecutive three-pointers by LaceDarius Dunn to give Baylor a 70-69 lead with 9:13 remaining in the game.

“We wanted to make [Saturday’s match-up with Missouri] exciting,” Drew said. “The team showed their togetherness and heart. In the second half, being down and finding a way to win is a sign of a team with experience, good leadership and a lot of courage.”

The Bears and Tigers were tied, 77-77 with 6:34 left, prior to Baylor’s senior Mamadou Diene – scoring a season-high 10 points – and Rogers stepping up offensively with back-to-back baskets to put the Bears on top for good.

“Our whole team knew the importance of this game,” Drew said. “Give a lot of credit to Missouri, they played a great game. Defensively, we just weren’t very sharp for 25 minutes of the game. In the last 15 minutes we did a much better job blocking out.”

Blocking out, or lack thereof, was one of the main reasons behind the Bears allowing the Tigers to take a big lead and remain in the fight – although Baylor finally managed to pull together and deadlock Missouri in team rebounding with 41 apiece.

“We played with effort,” Baylor sophomore guard Tweety Carter said. “The first half we came out and we didn’t look like we had the energy defensively. Starting with me, I wasn’t energetic out there like I normally am until the second half. It has to be a 40 minute thing, so we have to continue to get better at that.”

With that being said, the Bears did what was necessary to pick up a much-needed win on a day filled with upsets – including a Texas A&M blowout loss at Oklahoma and a Texas loss to Texas Tech – to give the BU basketball team their 20th win of the season, as well as their third straight conference victory.

“Nationally, people look at a 20-win season as a pretty big deal,” Drew said. “That is why when a team can reach a 20-win season, it is something to obviously be proud of. At the same time, I don’t think anyone says that they just want to win 20 [regular season games], and the good thing is we have a lot of basketball left.”

For Baylor’s Carter and company, the credit goes to God – as well as teamwork.

“You have to give credit to God for bringing us together,” Carter said. “A lot of us had other opportunities to go to other schools and play for other coaches; when Coach Drew recruited us, he told us that one day it would be a special day for us at Baylor. We need to continue to get better. [Our current 20-8 season] is a great start for us, but we just need to continue to get better.”

The Baylor big men, primarily Diene and Rogers, played a significant role in the victory – especially during the Bears second half rally as the home team’s forwards/centers came through in the clutch.

“Well I think our bigs always have an impact on the game with the standpoint that a lot of times they create advantages with their screens and their play,” Drew said. “I thought [in Saturday’s game against the Tigers] they did a great job finishing and scoring inside.”

Forward Delbert Simpson, a junior transfer from Tyler Junior College, scored a career high in both scoring and blocks while coming off the bench – netting 10 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks on Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.

“It was a great day for me, but a better day for our team,” Simpson said. “I contributed to the team where I feel like I could help out today. I want to win, and the team wants to win. We are a family.”

Baylor’s hoops family also did a phenomenal job of hitting the glass and blocking out late in the second half after a dismal first half left the Bears in a halftime deficit.

“That [second half rebounding] was a major thing,” Simpson said. “With this game in particular, we had to come in and hit the boards to be victorious.”

For the Bears, seven players hit double-digits in scoring – including Henry Dugat (18), Carter (17), Dunn (16), Curtis Jerrells (14), Rogers (12), Diene (10) and Simpson (10) – as the Baylor guards once again came to the rescue.

“They’ve got quick guards; actually I think they’ve got the best guards we have played all year,” Missouri junior forward Lee Lyons, who led the Tigers with 22 points and 15 rebounds, said. “They [Baylor’s guards] are quick, and they can shoot the ball. So you really can’t guard them. In my opinion, I think they are the best guards in the Big 12.”

Rogers also picked up his 12th double-double of the season on Saturday, and his fifth straight, muscling in 12 points while pulling down 12 boards as Baylor picked up their first 20-win season since 1987-88 – a season that saw the Bears break into the postseason NCAA Tournament.

Currently (as of March 2), the Baylor men’s basketball team is tied for third place with Kansas State with 8-6 records in Big 12 standings – with the Bears owning the tie-breaker if the teams are deadlocked by season’s end – while the Aggies, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech battle it out for fifth.

The Bears final two regular season challenges come this week – a home date with Texas A&M on Wednesday, March 5 at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2, and a road game against Texas Tech on Saturday, March 8 at 12:45 p.m. CT on ESPN Plus – as Baylor aims to finish the season on a strong note with a postseason invite on the line…

 

Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at denton.ramsey@gmail.com

 

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