By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by Marquis Cooley | Broadcast Reporter
“I promise you it won’t take 71 years before the next time we do this,” said head coach Scott Drew as his players cut pieces off the net, green and gold confetti falling to the floor of the Ferrell Center, celebrating No. 3 Baylor’s first regular season conference title since 1950, as well as an 88-73 over No. 18 Texas Tech on Sunday.
For the first time since the 1947-48 season, Baylor finished undefeated at home with an 11-0 record and wrapped up conference play with 13 wins, more than any other team in the Big 12 despite playing three fewer games than everyone except TCU (two fewer).
There was no better way to send off the seniors than with a win. Forward Mark Vital, guard MaCio Teague, former forward Tristan Clark and grad transfer Mark Paterson were honored before the game for their time on the Baylor squad. Vital, who broke the Big 12 record in wins (45-22) and grabbed the third double-double of his career Sunday (15 rebounds, 10 points), the first this season, said he couldn’t have imagined a better Senior Day.
“I tried to put everything left in the tank into that,” Vital said. “A lot of people were doubting me at some point, saying that I lost it and didn’t have the energy. I tried to put everything in this moment right here. Man, it’s amazing right now. It’s an amazing feel. It’s good momentum going into the (Big 12) tournament and the NCAA tournament also. Today was a special day for me and MaCio [Teague] and Mark Paterson.”
Each of the seniors scored, but Teague ran away with it, dropping 10 treys to set a new school record in a Big 12 game and tying the overall program record. The senior from Ohio led all scorers with 35 points.
“I knew MaCio was going to have a special game because he felt in shoot-around the hoop was super big from the jump,” Vital said.
The Bears got off to a quick start going on a 10-0 run in the first four minutes thanks to back-to-back threes by Teague sandwiched in between two Vital jumpers. The Bears built up a 13-point lead through the first four minutes of the game.
Tech began to slowly chip away as Baylor and the Raiders went tit-for-tat in three-pointers in the first half. TTU junior guards Mac McClung and Kyler Edwards hit back-to-back shots from deep to cut the lead down to five. Teague answered with one of his own 20 seconds later. At the 5:47 mark, Edwards hit another three off of a turnover. Baylor junior guard Jared Butler responded. But Edwards wouldn’t cool down, responding to make it 25-22. Raiders sophomore guard Terrence Shannon tied the game at 25 with a second-chance bucket from deep. Bears redshirt guard Davion Mitchell matched him in the ensuing play.
The Red Raiders kept the game close through the last two minutes of the half, tying it once again on a free throw by TTU redshirt sophomore guard Kevin McCullar. Butler, who finished with 18 points, hit a jumper with 40 seconds left to send Baylor into the locker room with a two-point lead.
The Bears came out hot in the second half, taking a one-point game to double digits once again, going on a monster 16-4 run. Teague sunk three of his 10 treys during the run. The Red Raiders then cut Baylor’s 22-point lead after going on a 8-1 run in the final two minutes.
The Ferrel Center rose to its feet, giving Vital and Teague a standing ovation as they exited the court and Paterson entered off the bench to provide the cherry on top with a free throw on a foul by Tech freshman guard Micah Peavey.
The Bears won’t be resting any time soon. As the No. 1 seed, they’re set to face either TCU or Kansas State at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., for the first game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament. Baylor will also likely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“Our goal has never been to be a No. 1 seed [in the NCAA tournament]. We’ve had other things we’ve wanted to accomplish,” Drew said. “We’ve never won the Big 12 tournament, so that is a goal of ours. And if you win that, obviously it improves your No. 1 status. The good thing about the Big 12 is if you don’t win it, there’s not many losses that are going to really hurt you because there’s so many talented teams that are ranked high.”
Either way, the Bears are motivated to head into Indianapolis with a conference tournament title under their belt.
“I didn’t know that [Baylor had never won the tournament],” Vital said. “Now that’s motivation right there, of course. I want to do that. Let’s do that. I’m glad you said that, you got me motivated. I’m going to let my mama cook me some good ol’ food tonight, and I’m back to it.”