In their first four victories, Baylor broke the adage that you need your best players to play their best to win in the NCAA Tournament.The Cougars entered the game ranked second in scoring defense (57.6 points) and first in field-goal percentage defense (37.3%). They also were among the leaders in rebounding margin.
The Bears appeared to take the challenge personally by blitzing the Cougars from the start.
The nation’s leaders in three-point field goal percentage were 8-for-15 from behind the arc in the first half, led by four from Jared Butler. Baylor also had a 20-11 rebounding edge after 20 minutes.
When they went to the locker room, the score was 45-20, and the game was effectively over. The dismantling was so impressive it was easy to forget Houston had won 28 of its 31 games and been ranked in the top 10 for most of the season.
The 45 points were the most given up by Houston in the first half all season, and Teague, the team’s second-leading scorer, had none of them.
Butler didn’t score and only attempted one shot in the second half. Teague picked up the offensive slack (11 points) and was one of five double-figure scorers, which included Tchamwa Tchatchoua (11 points), who had his most points in a game since Dec. 29. Mitchell led the Bears with 11 of the team’s 23 assists in that game.
The unbeaten Bulldogs — should they knock off upset kings UCLA — will be the ultimate test, which is what the final obstacle on the road to a national championship should be. And while Baylor was able to make do before the Final Four without its best effort, the Bears will need to play as well as they did in the semifinals to cut down the nets Monday night.