By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
No. 24 Baylor men’s basketball ended its Myrtle Beach Invitational tournament run with an 87-78 win over No. 17 Villanova Sunday. The victory is their first since a 2016 Battle 4 Atlantis trophy.
The Bears got off to an early start for the first time during the Myrtle Beach Invitational, running up a 12-4 lead in the first four minutes of the matchup. Villanova then notched three straight three-point buckets, and the two teams fought close through the end of the first half, heading into intermission with the Wildcats leading 41-38.
Wildcat guard Connor Gillespie led all scorers with 16 in the first period, with Wildcat forward Saddiq Bey right behind him with 10. Baylor sophomore wing Matthew Mayer came off the bench and scored 10 on an efficient 4-6 shooting to keep the Bears in the game. Sophomore guard Jared Butler followed Mayer close with nine points.
Having fallen behind three going into half time, the Bears offense clicked, adding 12 in the second half. Butler and redshirt-junior guard MaCio Teague led both teams in scoring with 13 and 12 as the two combined for 5-8 from deep after the break. Teague was also second on the team with three rebounds in the second half.
Butler led the team on the day with 22 points, while Teague put up 18 and redshirt-sophomore guard Davion Mitchell added 13. The front court is still trying to find its rhythm as junior Tristan Clark and redshirt-senior Freddie Gillespie combined for 16 points and 11 rebounds in 47 minutes.
The forwards’ struggles are exemplified by the lack of rebounding Sunday, with the Wildcats grabbing three more boards than the Bears (31-28). Baylor also had trouble moving the ball in the win, registering an assist on only 32% of team baskets, whereas Villanova managed a 57% assist rate.
The Bears’ defense saved them again in the championship game, forcing 12 turnovers compared to their own five given up. Those forced turnovers ended up sparking the offense for Baylor, leading to 13-4 margin off of giveaways.
After a busy weekend, the men’s basketball team will get a week off before heading back into a normal routine starting Dec. 3 against Maryland Eastern-Shore. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ through the ESPN app.