Sunday's NCAAs: No. 1 seed Baylor beats Wisconsin 76-63 to reach Sweet 16

John Marshall
Associated Press

Indianapolis — A second COVID-19 pause seemed to make Baylor vulnerable in March, some of the verve drained from a defense that was being compared to the all-time best.

The big, bad ball-hawking Bears are back and again look like a team ready to make a deep run – possibly into the Final Four.

Baylor guard Matthew Mayer (24) blocks the shot of Wisconsin forward Micah Potter (11) in the first half.

Davion Mitchell scored 16 points and spearheaded a dominant defensive first half, helping top-seeded Baylor avoid another NCAA Tournament upset with a 76-63 win over Wisconsin on Sunday.

“We really pride ourselves on just making things hard for other teams, giving ball pressure, not making them feel comfortable, making them keep dribbling the ball and not being able to look,” Mitchell said. “I think we definitely are getting back to ourselves.”

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The knock on Baylor entering the NCAA Tournament was that the Bears weren’t quite as good coming off their second COVID-19 pause as they were while winning the first 18 games of the season.

Baylor didn’t look quite as unstoppable after the pause, the hands and feet not quite as quick while losing two of the final six games.

The Bears (24-2) found their defensive groove in the first half against Wisconsin, looking every bit a Final Four favorite not long after Illinois became the first No. 1 seed to bow out of the bracket.

Led by Mitchell’s never-give-an-inch style, Baylor made Wisconsin’s senior-heavy lineup uncomfortable with its athleticism and all-out defensive effort.

“They went small and were switching everything and made it difficult for us to do what we want to do,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I give credit to Baylor for forcing us away from what we wanted to do.”

The Badgers (18-13) showed a bit of fight after being backed into an 18-point corner, rallying to within seven midway through the second half behind D’Mitrik Trice (12 points).

The Bears answered the run with a dash of more D to reach the Sweet 16 for the fifth time under coach Scott Drew. They’ll get Villanova next.

“There is no book, there is no guarantee how you’re going to come back, when you’re going to come back and if you’re going to be able to make it far enough to where it can pay off,” Drew said. “Right now, I think defensively the last two games we’re a lot better than we were prior to them.”

Dominant Baylor showed up in the NCAA Tournament opener after a shaky start, hitting 11 3-pointers in a 79-55 win over Hartford.

A short turnaround to prepare for Wisconsin’s grinding style is never easy, which countless teams learned during the Bo Ryan years.

These Bears had no trouble on little rest.

Baylor was at its chest-to-chest best on defense, limiting Wisconsin’s open looks and jumping into passing lanes to create turnovers. Those led to easy transition baskets, like the alley-oop from MaCio Teague to Mark Vital that had the basket still wobbling as the Badgers set up on offense at the other end.

In the half court, Baylor repeatedly got into the lane, setting up a series of lobs and short-range floaters. When Wisconsin packed it in, the Bears went to the 3, the last by Adam Flagler at the buzzer to put Baylor up 42-29.

“They did a great job of pressuring us and getting us out of our comfort zone at times,” Trice said. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to be able to make some plays happen and knock down some shots.”

More NCAA games

Syracuse 75, West Virginia 72: Buddy Boeheim carried his father, Jim, to the Hall of Fame coach’s 20th Sweet 16 appearance, scoring 22 of his 25 points after halftime to lead 11th-seeded Syracuse past third-seeded West Virginia.

Jim Boeheim’s Orange got the better of another legend, Bob Huggins, in the second March Madness meeting between coaches with at least 900 Division I victories. Huggins won No. 900 when West Virginia beat Morehead State in the first round on Friday. Boeheim got his 982nd at Huggins’ expense.

Syracuse (18-9) advanced to face second-seeded Houston.

Buddy “Buckets” Boeheim erupted in the second half, when he made all but one of his six 3-pointers. He finished 6 of 13 from deep and 8 of 17 overall, and he helped put the game away with three late free throws.

Sean McNeil scored 23 points to lead the Mountaineers (19-10), who last made the Sweet 16 in 2018.

Oregon State 80, Oklahoma State 70: In Indianapolis, Ethan Thompson scored 26 points and No. 12 seed Oregon State neutralized Oklahoma State and star freshman Cade Cunningham, rolling to a second-round upset.

Maurice Calloo, who transferred from Oklahoma State, scored 15 points and Jarod Lucas also had 15 for the Beavers, who advanced to play eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago in a Midwest Region Sweet 16 matchup that few could have predicted. Loyola overmatched No. 1 seed Illinois earlier Sunday.

Cunningham, a first-team All-American and possible top NBA draft pick, scored 24 points for Oklahoma State (21-9), but the fourth-seeded Cowboys wasted possessions down the stretch by failing to get him the ball.

Avery Anderson scored 16 points and Keylan Boone added 13 for Oklahoma State in a game that was delayed for 20 minutes at the start by a power outage.

Oregon State (19-12) was picked to finish last in the Pac 12 and had to win the conference tournament just to make the NCAA field. The Beavers pulled that off, then rolled past No. 5 seed Tennessee in the first round. They became the third double-digit seed to reach this year’s Sweet 16, joining 15 seed Oral Roberts and Syracuse, an 11.

Houston 63, Rutgers 60: Quentin Grimes scored 22 points, Tramon Mark converted a soaring three-point play with 24 seconds left, and Houston beat Rutgers.

DaJon Jarreau overcame a series of bumps and bruises to score a key bucket down the stretch and finished with 17 points for second-seeded Houston (26-3).

The 10th-seeded Scarlet Knights (16-12) still had a chance after Mark’s free throws, but Geo Baker turned the ball over and Marcus Sasser made two more to extend the lead. Rutgers rushed back up the floor and Ron Harper Jr. let fly a potential tying 3 from the wing that clanked off the side of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.

Baker finished with 14 points for Rutgers but was holding back tears following his late turnover. Montez Mathis also had 10 points for the Scarlet Knights, who failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1976.

SOUTH

Arkansas 68, Texas Tech 66: Justin Smith had 20 points and played a key role in a final-play defensive stop, helping Arkansas beat Texas Tech and secure the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16 in a quarter-century.

In the final seconds of a tense finish, Smith found himself defending Kyler Edwards beyond the 3-point arc. Edwards drove into the paint with Smith on his hip and missed a layup, with Arkansas guard JD Notae snagging the rebound and sprinting up court to run the final seconds out.

The third-seeded Razorbacks are off to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1996 under famed former coach Nolan Richardson. Arkansas (24-6) next faces No. 15 seed Oral Roberts.

Star freshman Moses Moody had 11 of his 15 points after halftime for the Razorbacks, who led by 13 points only to have the sixth-seeded Red Raiders twice whittle that margin to a single point.

Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 20 points for Texas Tech (18-11).

Oral Roberts 81, Florida 78: Oral Roberts became just the second No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the round of 16, sending No. 7 seed Florida home.

Oral Roberts opened the tournament by stunning No. 2 seed Ohio State.

Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas carried the Golden Eagles out of an 11-point deficit. Obanor scored 28 points and Abmas, the regular-season national leading scorer, finished with 26 as the Golden Eagles (18-10) closed the game on a 25-11 run to overcome the 11-point lead Florida held with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Oral Roberts joins Florida Gulf Coast – those guys from Dunk City – as the only No. 15 seeds to reach the round of 16.

Tre Mann led the Gators (15-10) with 19 points, but went quiet late in the second half, failing to score over the final 17 minutes.

Villanova 84, North Texas 61: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored 18 points, Jermaine Samuels Jr. had 15 and Villanova knocked down 15 3-pointers, emphatically ending 13th-seeded North Texas’ bid for a second upset.

Villanova (18-6) will play the second weekend of the tournament for the third time in the last five. Coach Jay Wright’s team won the whole thing the last two times it got this far in 2016 and ’18.

These Wildcats are not considered a serious national championship contender – but they seemed to channel those title teams in the first half against the Conference USA champions at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Villanova finished 15 for 30 from 3-point range, with Cole Swider (nine points) and Caleb Daniels (11 points) each hitting three.

Javion Hamlet scored 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, but the rest of the Mean Green (18-10) made only 13 field goals.