By Matthew Soderberg | Editor-in-Chief
Baylor men’s basketball is heading to the Sweet 16 after a 76-63 win over No. 9 Wisconsin. The Bears forced ten more turnovers than their opponent and held the lead for the last 33 minutes of play in the victory
The Badgers started the game with a 7-2 run with scores from three different players, but a 7-0 run by Baylor quickly turned the tide of the game. A quick trading of baskets tied the game up at 11, and then the Bears ripped off the next nine points. Head coach Scott Drew said the quick start today is all due to the practice the team put in after the Big 12 tournament.
“I think the preparation our guys put into the game is where the game was won for us, and hats off to them,” Drew said. “We have a player-led team. Those guys buy in. They were locked in, and that gave us a chance to be good today.”
After taking a nine-point lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half, the Bears extended it to 13 by the break. It was an even scoring attack from Baylor in the first half, as six players scored at least four while junior guard Jared Butler led the team with nine.
The No. 1 seed jumped out to an 18-point lead at the start of the second thanks to a three by junior guard Davion Mitchell and a jumper by senior guard MaCio Teague, but Wisconsin closed the difference to eight points by the 12:15 mark.
Each time the Badgers attempted to push past a seven-point deficit though, a Bear was there to stop the bleeding. Junior wing Matthew Mayer scored seven of his nine second-half points in the four minutes after Wisconsin’s run, and Mitchell also contributed a team-high nine after the break.
“I even thought the difference today was Mayer, the plays he made off the bench,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said. “When they needed baskets in the second half, he answered for them. When you have guard play that good, you obviously will be one of the better teams in the country.”
Baylor is heading back to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017. Senior guard Mark Vital is the only player from that squad still on the team. Mitchell said after the win even though it’s a great feeling, this team’s work isn’t done.
“It’s real special, man,” Mitchell said. “We just give credit to all the guys behind the scenes, the GAs, the coaches, and all the managers that helped us with this win, man. It wasn’t just us. We all came together. We all had one goal. The job is not finished. We’re just going to keep playing hard and try to take one game at a time.”
The Bears will take on the winner of the matchup between No. 5 Villanova and No. 13 North Texas next weekend.