Baylor took advantage of a forgettable performance from Nebraska to score a convincing 74-60 win in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
The Cornhuskers scored just 16 points in the first half, shot 19 percent from three-point land and watched their head coach get ejected in the second half. The Bears didn't have their best showing either, but it wasn't necessary with Nebraska playing poorly.
Given the excitement elsewhere around March Madness, there probably won't be many moments from this game on the tournament highlight reel. That said, Baylor will be happy just to survive and advance. Let's check out how the game played out, followed by bracket information and a full recap.
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Recap and Twitter Reaction
Baylor came into the NCAA tournament on quite a roll. The Bears, who at one point around the middle of the season had lost eight of 10 games, went 10-2 down the stretch. It was a run highlighted by a trip to the Big 12 title game and ensured they would reach the Big Dance.
Playing well at tournament time is always an advantage, but Scott Drew thought the impact went beyond a winning streak. The Bears' official athletics site provided comments from the head coach, who said by digging a hole and fighting out of it that the team came to understand how to handle the pressure:
I think having our backs against the wall (has helped). It's basically been do-or-die and playoff basketball for a while. It was win or go home. I think that helps prepare you for the NCAA Tournament, because you have to be sharp each day in practice and each game. If you didn't win down the stretch like we did, we wouldn't have been in this situation. Hopefully that will pay dividends.
At the very least, the run allowed Baylor to enter its second-round clash against Nebraska with some positive vibes. The defensively strong Cornhuskers are exactly the type of team that would have given the Bears trouble a couple months ago.
Interestingly, it was Baylor's defense that helped spark the revival. The team played a more aggressive 1-3-1 zone with a lot of movement to get into passing lanes, which helped create more mistakes and easy buckets at the other end.
So it wasn't a good sign when Nebraska won the opening tip and just 15 seconds later Shavon Shields attacked a seam in the zone for an easy basket. At least for that moment, it appeared the underdogs had an answer for the Bears' improved defense.
That outlook changed pretty quickly. Nebraska proceeded to score just one point over the next nine minutes, as it was forced into a lot of contested jumpers. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald passed along some ugly numbers at the under-12 media timeout:
11:45 in first: Baylor 10, #huskers 3. No field goal since 19:42. 11% from field. Baylor length in zone BIG problem. Petteway 2 fouls.— Lee Barfknecht (@leebeeowh) March 21, 2014
Baylor wasn't having a ton of success on offense, either. Luckily for the Bears, Gary Franklin and Rico Gathers were able to provide a little spark off the bench to ensure they did build a lead.
One problem for both sides was a lack of rhythm due to a high number of fouls. It seemed like even the slightest contact drew a whistle, leading to 23 total fouls in the opening half. Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports wasn't a fan of the officiating:
Baylor vs Nebraska please stop calling fouls—this is awful #TruTV— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 21, 2014
John Gasaway of ESPN agreed that the referees should have let more go:
Hope Nebraska-Baylor doesn't become Cuse-Ohio State 2012 redux. Let 'em play, refs. No one's here to see you.— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) March 21, 2014
When the dust settled at the halftime buzzer, a few stats told the story. The biggest ones were that Nebraska had six turnovers and just one assist and was 0-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. For Baylor, the team went to the free-throw line 20 times and connected on 14 attempts.
It all equated to a 29-16 Bears lead. ESPN College Basketball noted that the teams combined to shoot below 30 percent in the half:
Baylor and Nebraska combine to shoot 13-47 (27.7%) from the floor in the first half. Bears lead 29-16. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 21, 2014
ESPN Stats and Info added in the ugly shooting chart for Nebraska:
Nebraska was 0-11 on 3-pt FG in the first half. pic.twitter.com/6nkVUt3nZ9— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
Coming out of the break, it was clear the Cornhuskers had talked about attacking the rim more frequently. They scored on four of their first five possessions, and only one was a jumper. The rest came from getting inside for layups, including a pair from Terran Petteway.
Ray Gallegos hit a three to cut the Baylor lead to single digits, and it seemed like Nebraska was ready to make a serious charge.
Instead, a 30-second stretch turned the tide back in the Bears' favor.
Petteway picked up his fourth foul on a shot attempt by Isaiah Austin, forcing the leading scorer to the bench. Austin hit both shots. On the way back down the court, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles was called for a technical foul. Kenny Chery converted both technical attempts. Then, a missed jumper by Shields and a foul on him at the other end resulted in two more points for Baylor.
The quick 6-0 spurt erased the early success by Nebraska and put the Bears up by 15.
A short time later, Miles was hit with his second technical foul and ejected. As Mike McFeely of KFGO remarked, he lost his composure and was never able to refocus:
Tim Miles ejected from Nebraska-Baylor game after getting second technical. Embarrassing. Lost his composure early and never regained it.— Mike McFeely (@MikeMcFeelyKFGO) March 21, 2014
How far will Baylor advance?
Baylor was on cruise control from that point forward. There were a couple brief runs by Nebraska, but Drew immediately used timeouts to control the pace and make sure another comeback wasn't in the cards after a few Thursday.
It's fair to wonder if the game would have been different, or at least more competitive, if it had been called differently. The high number of calls made things tough on Nebraska, especially with Petteway sitting on the bench for long stretches due to foul trouble.
Looking ahead, Baylor will play the winner of Creighton and Louisiana-Lafayette in the round of 32. It's a winnable matchup for the Bears regardless of which team comes out on top in that game, but they will need to play better than they did Friday.
The biggest key is creating better looks on offense. The Bears settled for a lot of tough jumpers and were bailed out by more than 40 trips to the line. They can't count on that in future rounds, which means more ball movement will be necessary to make a deep run.