No. 5 seed Baylor men’s basketball lost a heartbreaker to No. 12 seed Yale 79-75 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Providence, R.I.
The Bears (22-12) were unable to contain the Bulldogs’ (23-6) star players as Makai Mason, Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears combined to score 58 of the team’s 79 points.
Senior forward Taurean Prince started off strong, hitting three of four from the field and two of two from beyond the arc to lead the Bears to an early 17-11 advantage seven minutes into the game.
Eleven straight points by Mason, all from midrange and three-point jumpers, gave the Bulldogs a 24-23 lead.
“I kind of just felt in the zone, I guess,” Mason said. “I guess I thought if I missed it, I’m sure our coach would have screamed at me. Luckily, I was able to knock it down.”
Usually a great rebounding team, Baylor was unable to keep the Yale bigs off the offensive glass for the latter part of the first half as the Bulldogs built a 34-28 lead with three minutes remaining in the period.
A predominantly Yale crowd cheered the Bulldogs into the locker room as they held a 39-34 lead at the break. At the half, Mason had 17 points for a Yale team that shot an impressive 64 percent from the field, while the Bears put up a solid 52 percent shooting clip.
Baylor opened the second half on a 6-0 run to take a 40-39 lead over Yale initiated by a dunk by Prince on the opening possession.
The Bulldogs responded with a 6-0 run of their own that prompted Baylor coach Scott Drew to call a timeout.
A reverse layup by Yale forward Sam Downey brought the Bulldogs lead to 55-46 with just over ten minutes left in the game.
Back-to-back dunks by Prince made it a single-digit game at 64-55 with six minutes remaining.
Sophomore forward Johnathan Motley then converted on an and-one dunk to cut the lead to 66-60 with under five minutes as the Bears attempted to claw their way back in. Prince knocked down a step-back three to make it a four point game with a minute and a half left as Drew called a timeout to stop the clock.
A steal by junior guard Ish Wainwright led to a layup by freshman guard Jake Lindsey, cutting it to a 72-70 game.
Mason was able to knock down his free throws down the stretch, but Prince drained a three-pointer with 20 seconds left to make it a 76-75 game with Yale leading.
The Bears immediately fouled, and Yale guard Nick Victor was only able to convert on one free throw, giving the Bears a chance to tie or take the lead.
Senior guard Lester Medford turned the ball over on the Bears final possession and the Bulldogs were able to pull away the victory.
Mason finished with a career-high and Yale NCAA Tournament record 31 points in the upset victory.
“I thought Yale did a great job in the second half making things tough for us to score,” Drew said. “We only shot 38 percent. But I thought Mason really controlled the game. We had a difficult time matching him.”
Prince led the Bears with 28 points in his final game in a Baylor uniform.
“We just got out-rebounded,” Prince said, “And they played harder than us the whole 40 minutes.”