cloudy.png
Friday September 17th, 2021 12:25PM

Bearing down: Baylor routs Houston 78-59 to reach title game

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nearly two decades ago, Scott Drew decided to leave his comfort zone at tiny Valparaiso for the scandal-plagued basketball program at Baylor, explaining to his father that there was nowhere for the Bears to go but up.

Now, they’re one win away from the top.

Led by Jared Butler and the rest of their brilliant backcourt, a defense that refused to give Houston an inch and a coach intent on making the most of his first trip to the Final Four, the Bears roared to a 78-59 victory Saturday night in their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in 71 long years.

“Every day you're grinding, and you don't really look back. You're pressing forward,” Drew said, “but I'm so blessed to have these unbelievable players that bought into what we like to do with the program.”

Or, as Butler put it: “This is what we came to Baylor to do.”

Butler scored all 17 of his points in the first half, but just about everyone from Baylor (27-2) got into the act, with five players scoring in double figures. They built a 45-20 lead by halftime and coasted the rest of the way in the first Final Four showdown between schools from the Lone Star State.

Next up for the Bears is Gonzaga, the overall No. 1 seed, which beat UCLA 93-90 when Jalen Suggs banked in a buzzer-beater in overtime. Monday night's championship is a matchup that was supposed to take place in December, but that game was called off hours before tipoff due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Bulldogs program.

“They got pros, we got pros. They win a lot of games, we win a lot of games,” Butler said. "I think we match up pretty well."

Better than Houston did with them.

Marcus Sasser had 20 points and Quentin Grimes 13 for the cold-shooting Cougars (28-4), whose dream path to their first Final Four since 1984 — they faced teams seeded 15th, 10th, 11th and 12th along the way — ended with a whimper against a team that spent most of the season ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Gonzaga.

“We had a great run,” Sasser said as he choked back tears. “Just fell short this year.”

Butler said this week that Baylor had been focused squarely on the Final Four since the moment last year's tournament was canceled by the pandemic. And for Drew, the wait goes back even longer.

He took over a program 18 years ago embroiled in arguably the biggest controversy in college basketball history: the graphic shooting death of player Patrick Dennehy, his teammate Devon Dotson pleading guilty to his murder, attempts by then-coach Dave Bliss to cover it all up and NCAA sanctions that lasted well into Drew's own tenure.

Yet somehow, the son of longtime Valpo coach Homer Drew could always picture the very scene that unfolded Saturday night: His team playing selflessly, almost effortlessly, never once feeling the pressure of college basketball's biggest stage, then celebrating their success at midcourt when the final buzzer sounded.

Well, there were a couple things Drew probably didn't picture.

Instead of 70,000 fans reaching to the rafters, the Bears were cheered in the lower bowl by thousands of cardboard cutouts — the late Georgetown coach John Thompson, New Mexico State mascot Pistol Pete and everyone in between — due to COVID-19 measures that have forced them to live in a bubble for the last three weeks.

The roughly 8,000 fans that were allowed through the doors, socially distanced in a vast ocean of blue seats, provided a muted soundtrack to the blowout taking place inside the cavernous home of the Indianapolis Colts.

“This was probably the toughest year for any of us,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, “and not just the bubble here but COVID challenges, isolation, being quarantined, social distancing, masks — this was quite a year. But you know, the sting of this will leave them. Days will turn into weeks, weeks into months, and what they'll remember is the memories.”

At least, all those leading up to Saturday night.

The Bears controlled the game from the jump, unleashing an early 14-3 run fueled by the crisp passing, silky shooting and dastardly defense that made them unbeatable before a 23-day COVID-19 pause late in the regular season.

When the Cougars finally scored, the Bears ripped off another 16-3 run later in the first half, carving up the nation's top 3-point field-goal defense with ruthless efficiency. By the time Davion Mitchell knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to end the first half, the Bears had a 45-20 lead that felt insurmountable.

“I don't think I've seen a team with five guards at that level, no drop-off," Sampson said, “and they were good at both ends of the floor.”

Sasser did everything he could to keep Houston alive, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 17 himself. But the rest of the Cougars were 1 of 15 from the field, including their All-American guard Grimes (0 for 5) and DeJon Jarreau (1 for 7), who earned MVP honors in the Midwest Region.

Sampson, whose reputation for being a master tactician was stretched to the limit, tried to get the guard-heavy Cougars to go to the basket more in the second half. But nothing seemed to work.

“We came out of the locker room and competed,” Sampson said with a shake of his head, “but Baylor is the best team we've played. They may be the best team we've played in the seven years I've been here.”

Meanwhile, the big cushion down the stretch gave the Bears — mullet-haired Matthew Mayer, MaCio Teague and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua in their bright pink sneakers, Butler and Mitchell and the rest of their guys lounging on the bench — plenty of time to celebrate the program's second trip to the national title game.

“It hasn't sunk in yet, to be honest with you,” Butler said. “I think it'll sink in later in life, or two months from now, and I'll think, ‘Wow, we were in the national title game.’ Or next year when I watch it, I'll think, ‘Wow, we were there.’”

___

More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Online Basketball, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, College Sports, AP Sports - NFL, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bearing down: Baylor routs Houston 78-59 to reach title game
Jared Butler scored 17 points to lead five Baylor players in double figures, and the Bears roared to a 78-59 victory over Houston in the Final Four
7:26PM ( 13 minutes ago )
AP source: Suspect in Capitol attack suffered delusions
The man who rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol, killing one officer before he was shot to death by police, had been suffering from delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts
7:22PM ( 18 minutes ago )
The Latest: Baylor routs Houston, awaits Gonzaga-UCLA winner
Baylor has cruised into the NCAA championship game and will wait to see if No. 1 Gonzaga can provide the much-anticipated final
7:16PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Marchand carries Bruins' big 2nd and past Penguins, 7-5
Brad Marchand had two of his three goals and set up another in Boston’s five-goal second period
6:39PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Baylor rolling over Houston 45-20 at halftime
Jared Butler is more than halfway toward a career high with 17 points and the Bears lead Houston 45-20 at halftime of their national semifinal
6:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Sasser carrying otherwise cold-shooting UH early
So far, Marcus Sasser is carrying the Houston offense
5:56PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
AP Sources: NCAA has not tested for drugs at championships
The Associated Press has learned that the NCAA has not tested players for performance-enhancing drugs at March Madness and other recent college championships
3:37PM ( 1 day ago )
Amid glow open day, cloud looms over MLB All-Star Game
Amid the glow of baseball’s opening day, there's a cloud looming over the All-Star Game still more than three months away
1:20PM ( 1 day ago )
Kansas gives Bill Self contract to keep him until retirement
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the Jayhawks until he retires
12:20PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Football
Hornets' Hayward out at least 4 weeks with right foot sprain
Gordon Hayward will miss at least a month after spraining his right foot during the Charlotte Hornets’ win Friday night over the Indiana Pacers
3:47PM ( 3 hours ago )
Oklahoma hires Loyola Chicago's Moser as basketball coach
Oklahoma has hired Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser as its basketball coach following Lon Kruger’s retirement
2:33PM ( 5 hours ago )
Oklahoma hires Loyola Chicago's Poser as basketball coach
Oklahoma has hired Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser as its basketball coach following Lon Kruger’s retirement
1:18PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
Jordan prince says he's confined, lashes out at authorities
The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II says he has been placed under house arrest
6:32PM ( 1 hour ago )
Suspect's wife says she 'can't understand' California attack
The estranged wife of the man who allegedly went on a shooting rampage in a Southern California office building earlier this week that left four people dead said Saturday that she couldn’t fathom why her husband targeted people who had treated her like family for more than a decade
6:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
Facebook data on more than 500M accounts found online
Details from more than 500 million Facebook users have been found available on a website for hackers
6:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills
Liberal activists are stepping up calls on corporate America to denounce Republican efforts to tighten state voting laws
12:58PM ( 6 hours ago )
Thousands rally in England and Wales over police legislation
Hundreds of people marched Saturday through central London and other cities across England and Wales to protest the British government's plan to hand new powers to the police to tackle demonstrations
12:26PM ( 7 hours ago )
UK: Benefits outweigh risks for AstraZeneca despite 7 deaths
Britain’s medicines regulator is urging people to continue taking the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, despite revealing that seven people in the U.K. have died from rare blood clots after getting the jab
12:06PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Source: Oklahoma hires Loyola's Moser as men's hoops coach
A person familiar with the situation said Oklahoma has hired Loyola Chicago's Porter Moser as its men's basketball coach
7:51PM ( 23 hours ago )
UCLA's Juzang could be first Asian American NBA lottery pick
Johnny Juzang’s impact at UCLA has been immediate since he transferred from Kentucky, giving the Bruins the scorer and dynamic player they had been missing in recent years
6:03PM ( 1 day ago )
Georgia hoops coach Taylor agrees to extension through 2027
After leading Georgia to the women's NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years, coach Joni Taylor has agreed to a contract extension through 2027
5:29PM ( 1 day ago )
College Sports
Indians not allowing headdresses, painted faces at games
Cleveland Indians fans won't be allowed inside Progressive Field wearing Native American headdresses or face paint
1:06PM ( 3 days ago )
Jones, Smith, Harris reconnect at Alabama's pro day No. 2
DeVonta Smith was there for quarterback Mac Jones once again
6:10PM ( 4 days ago )
DraftKings buys VSiN sports betting video broadcast company
DraftKings has bought Vegas Sports Information Network, a multiplatform broadcast and content company delivering sports betting news, analysis, and data to U.S. customers
10:31AM ( 4 days ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Oklahoma St star freshman Cade Cunningham to enter NBA draft
Cade Cunningham has announced he will enter the NBA draft after a dynamic freshman season that saw him named a first-team AP All-American
11:10AM ( 2 days ago )
North Carolina: Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams retiring
North Carolina says Hall of Fame basketball coach Roy Williams is retiring
10:50AM ( 2 days ago )
Ball in their court: Justices take on NCAA restrictions
With the March Madness basketball tournament ongoing, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case about how colleges can reward athletes who play Division I basketball and football
7:01AM ( 3 days ago )
AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
Facebook data on more than 500M accounts found online
Details from more than 500 million Facebook users have been found available on a website for hackers
7:28PM ( 11 minutes ago )
AP source: Suspect in Capitol attack suffered delusions
The man who rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol, killing one officer before he was shot to death by police, had been suffering from delusions, paranoia and suicidal thoughts
7:22PM ( 18 minutes ago )
The Latest: Baylor routs Houston, awaits Gonzaga-UCLA winner
Baylor has cruised into the NCAA championship game and will wait to see if No. 1 Gonzaga can provide the much-anticipated final
7:16PM ( 23 minutes ago )
The Latest: Baylor cruising over UH, on verge of title game
Baylor hasn’t even needed help from All-American guard Jared Butler in the second half while cruising toward a trip to the national championship game
7:07PM ( 32 minutes ago )
The Latest: Reported COVID-19 death prompts health probe
Health officials in Indiana say they are investigating whether anyone was exposed to COVID-19 by Alabama residents following Friday night’s reported death of a Crimson Tide fan who was in Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament last weekend
6:54PM ( 45 minutes ago )