SALT LAKE CITY, UT — The No. 9 Baylor Bears pulled out a 78-69 win over No. 8 seed Syracuse Thursday night to advance to round two of the NCAA tournament.
Both teams have been known for the zone defense, and how do you beat a zone? Move the ball quick and find the open shot.
Baylor did just that and started the game off hot.
Mario Kegler got things going for the Bears with an opening three from the corner as the shot clock expired.
Mark Vital did his part by securing numerous offensive rebounds for the Bears.
As a whole, Baylor was 10-18 from the perimeter in the first half. Makai Mason led the team with 16 points, 12 of which were from beyond the arc.
Both teams suffered from scoring droughts around the middle of the first half, but rallied. At one point, both teams were shooting 57 percent from the field.
For Baylor, that was largely in part, from Mason and Jared Butler doing work on both ends of the floor: draining threes and then sacrificing themselves on the defensive end to get the charge.
Syracuse's biggest threat was Elijah Hughes. In the first half, he put up 18 points, 15 of those being from downtown. Syracuse was without their starting point guard, Frank Howard, Thursday night.
Syracuse announced Wednesday that Howard was suspended from the NCAA tournament for an indefinite amount of time due to a violation of athletic department policy.
The Bears went into half up by one, 38-37. Baylor had the lead for 14:37 of the total 20 minutes in the first half. At one point, the Bears' lead was up to 11.
In the second, Mason started to attack the paint more. His penetration into the lane opened up shots on the arc for Baylor.
Freddie Gillespie made his mark around the mid point of the second half: a monster dunk on one end before he swatted a Syracuse lay-up attempt into next week.
As the game began to wind down, Baylor held a decent lead of about five. That lead and a diminishing clock brought out Syracuse's full court press.
But, the Bears persevered and hit their free throws when Syracuse started to foul.
Baylor will play No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday for round two of the NCAA tournament. Tip off for that game is set for 6:10 p.m. CT.