By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer
After transferring to Baylor from Brigham Young University before the 2022-23 season, junior forward Caleb Lohner had his first game playing back at altitude. Lohner recorded his best game as a Bear and propelled the green and gold to a 74-56 win over UC Santa Barbara in the round of 64 on Friday in the Ball Arena in Denver.
Lohner, a 6-foot-8 forward, shot a perfect 5-5 on the afternoon, with a season high 13 points. His perfect field-goal percentage (100%) set a new program record in an NCAA Tournament game while attempting at least five shots.
“Our goal at the end of the day is to win and I think tonight was a night I could help out,” Lohner said. “I want to give all credit to my coaches and teammates just because I think I was given great opportunities to be successful … This team, I’m so proud of them. We’re excited to get that win.”
Not only was the Baylor (23-10) forward on fire shooting, but he was also second on the team in rebounds with five and played physical defense both in the post and on the perimeter.
In Lohner’s only other NCAA Tournament game, which was a loss against then-No. 11 University of California, Los Angeles in his days as a Cougar, he tallied six points and 10 rebounds while playing 35 minutes. Now a Baylor Bear, Lohner has been a big part of the Bears’ bench in 2023 and when he was given an opportunity to contribute in Denver, he took advantage.
“It gives me confidence, but I think at the end of the day, the real confidence just comes from the group of guys I’m around every day and just staying ready and doing what I can to help,” Lohner said.
Head coach Scott Drew said Lohner has had a strong mindset all year in his bench role.
“It’s great to brag about guys when they do the right thing,” Drew said. “Caleb, all year long, if he played two minutes or 20 minutes, worked really hard and was a great teammate on the bench. So, for coaches, it’s so rewarding for us when someone does well because they’ve done the right things, and I know his teammates feel the same.”
Lohner found his rhythm early in the first half when he scored three baskets on three straight possessions. Lohner capped off his scoring barrage with a highlight reel dunk off of a no-look pass from redshirt-senior guard Adam Flagler.
The forward stacked on two more points later in the first half and then drilled a corner 3-pointer early in the second half to continue to build on Baylor’s momentum.
Coming into Friday’s game, Lohner was 3-of-15 from 3-point land on the season. Freshman forward Josh Ojianwuna said the team has collectively told Lohner to keep his head up and shoot with confidence.
“I feel like he [Lohner] was free out there and more confident, because we’ve been telling him that if he’s open, he should shoot the ball,” Ojianwuna said. “It doesn’t matter if you miss, as long as you’re confident shooting the ball and getting to the basket. That’s what he did today.”
Just over half way into the second half, Lohner hit two free throws and then headed to the bench to take a quick breather. As the junior made his way off the court, the Baylor faithful in attendance gave him a standing ovation.
“Caleb, he’s a great player,” UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack said. “This might have been one of his best games, from me scouting them, that he had. So I’m happy for him. Caleb’s a really good kid.”
After taking down the No. 14 seed, No. 3 seed Baylor will keep dancing with its round of 32 game against No. 6 seed Creighton University on Sunday at the Ball Arena in Denver. Tipoff time is to be determined, but stay tuned with @BULariatSports on Twitter to get the latest info.