San Antonio, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Baylor Bears are seeking to make it back to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last five years, as they go up against the Creighton Bluejays in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center.
The sixth seed in the West Region, Baylor actually has the best postseason winning percentage of any team in the country over the last six seasons (.842; 16-3), thanks to the efforts of head coach Scott Drew who is 7-3 in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Drew moved the Bears to 10-9 all-time in the tournament on Friday with a 74-60 romp over former Big 12 Conference foe, Nebraska, in the second round of the event.
Meanwhile, third-seeded and 16th-ranked Creighton is involved in the tourney for the 10th time in the last 16 years, but in 26 previous NCAA or NIT appearances, the Jays have never won back-to-back games in the same event in the same year. The team tries to put an end to that negative trend after taking out Louisiana in the first game of this event two days ago by a score of 76-66.
Creighton owns a 3-0 advantage in the all-time series between the programs, posting a narrow 77-76 overtime triumph in the most recent encounter back in 1999 in Waco.
The winner of this matchup heads to the Sweet 16 to challenge the second- seeded Wisconsin Badgers who defeated Oregon by a score of 85-77 in third- round action on Saturday night in Milwaukee.
Both Baylor and the Cornhuskers came out sluggish in the first half of their meeting, but even though the Bears made a total of just seven field goals, hitting 1-of-6 behind the 3-point line, the squad moved out to a 29-16 edge at the break thanks to a 14-of-20 showing at the free-throw line. The second half saw more of the same at the charity stripe for the Bears (24-of-28), as they outscored Nebraska at the line by a massive 38-10 margin.
Brady Heslip converted all 10 of his chances at the line as he finished with 12 points, although he converted a mere 1-of-7 from the floor and missed all six chances behind the 3-poiint line. Leading the offense was Cory Jefferson with 16 points, Isaiah Austin 13 and Rico Gather 11 off the bench, while Royce O'Neale contributed a team-best 10 rebounds and four assists.
The balanced scoring attack is nothing new for the Bears as they sport four players in double figures to this point in the campaign, led by Jefferson and his 13.6 ppg. The big man also paces the group with 8.4 rpg, but having an even bigger influence in the paint is Austin (11.1 ppg) who has paired his 5.6 rpg to a massive 115 blocked shots, 13 more than all of the Baylor competition put together through 36 games.
Doug McDermott was at it again for Creighton during the second round game versus the Ragin' Cajuns as he produced a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) in the first half alone. One of the all-time leading scorers in the history of college basketball, McDermott finished the contest with a game-high 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the floor, followed by Austin Chatman and Ethan Wragge with 16 and 12 points, respectively. As a group, the Jays shot an impressive 51.9 percent from the floor and turned the ball over a mere six times, but they ended up a pitiful 11-of-21 at the free-throw line, something that needs to be addressed before it is too late.
A career 21.8 ppg scorer, McDermott remains the nation's top producer this season with 27.0 ppg, shooting an impressive 52.7 percent from the field and 45.5 percent behind the 3-point line. Making McDermott's output all the more impressive, aside from opponents constantly trying to plan a defense to slow him down, is the fact that he is also the leading rebounder for the Jays with 7.1 rpg. Providing ample perimeter support is Wragge (10.5 ppg) who has actually knocked down more 3-pointers than McDermott (96-of-211) with 108- of-228) on the outside.