By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter
No. 11 Baylor men’s basketball pulled out a 53-52 home win against previously undefeated Butler Tuesday night. The Bears led by 10 at the half, but poor shooting after the break let the Bulldogs climb back into a one-possession game.
After shooting 45% in the first half of play, Baylor shot just 24% after intermission against a stout Butler defense. The Bulldogs shot 48% in the second half as they cut down the Bears’ 16-point lead.
The Bulldogs were down one when junior forward Mark Vital blocked Butler’s Kamar Baldwin with 1.5 seconds remaining to seal the win. Junior redshirt guard MaCio Teague was fouled on the inbounds but missed the front of a one-and-one. The Bulldogs could not get another shot off before the buzzer.
After the game, Vital said he just does what Drew asks him to do.
“I just play my role,” Vital said. “I practice every day and Coach Drew tells me what he needs from me. I try to do my best because you never know when it’s your last time playing the game.”
Baylor was able to hold off the attack through their usually strong offensive rebounding. The Bears grabbed 13 offensive boards compared to Butler’s seven. Senior forward Freddie Gillespie said the work on the glass picked the Bears up during a rough second half.
“It was huge,” Gillespie said. “Our field goal percentage wasn’t where we like it to be. So those second-chance opportunities to get more points on the board is everything.”
That advantage was helpful on a night where the Bears didn’t have many. The Bulldogs led in field goal and three-point percentages, made more free throws and blocked sophomore guard Jared Butler four times. Head coach Scott Drew said his team was lucky to win with so many missed shots from the line.
“In shootaround today, we missed one free throw on one end and two free throws, or maybe even zero free throws on the other end,” Drew said. “So you go into the game as a coach feeling good, and we’re really blessed to win a close game with not shooting free throws well.”
The Bears led in a few peripheral stats in the win, scoring more points off turnovers (17-5) and off the bench (14-1). They also had two more assists and two more blocks than their opponents.
Teague and senior guard Devonte Bandoo led Baylor in scoring with 10 points a piece. Gillespie and Butler each provided eight while the forward grabbed nine rebounds. Butler’s leading scorers far outpaced the Bears, as Baldwin led the game with 19 and Sean McDermott scored 16 on 6-8 shooting.
Baylor gets a rest to study for finals before preparing for their next game against Tennessee-Martin, which will be played Dec. 18 in Houston. The contest in the Toyota Center will be aired on ESPNU as well as on the ESPN app.