Rushed Reactions: #6 Baylor 85, #3 Creighton 55Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2014
Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Defensive Size and Length. It was painfully apparent from the early minutes of tonight’s game that Baylor had adequately game-planned for the Creighton offense (coming in as the nation’s most efficient unit). They were not going to allow any of the trio of National Player of the Year Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge or Jahenns Manigat to get open looks from beyond the arc. They were instead willing to give up anything inside — providing single coverage with seven-footer Isaiah Austin — or shade away from Grant Gibbs or Austin Chatman. It worked like a charm. The NPOY only got up four shots in the entire first half, making one, and his teammate Wragge only shot twice (making neither). Manigat was in the same boat — two shots, zero makes — and as a result of this strategy predicated on Baylor’s ridiculous size and length all over the court, the Creighton offense was shut down with a miserable 20-point half (scoring only half of Baylor’s output). McDermott, Wragge and Manigat shot a combined 2-of-8 from the field in the first half, and 0-of-6 from three. Think about that for a minute. That’s just a complete lockdown. The second half was just a formality.
- It Was Raining Threes… But it wasn’t Creighton doing the trick tonight. Let’s get this out of the way first. Baylor is not a great three-point shooting team. While it’s true that they shot a nice 38.0 percent on the season, the majority of that work was put in by a single player, sharp-shooter Brady Heslip (104 threes on 45.6 percent shooting). Other high-volume guys like Kenny Chery and Gary Franklin were at 31 percent, and a handful of players like Royce O’Neale and Cory Jefferson hit a nice percentage but just don’t take many of them. Tonight it didn’t matter. The Bears drilled their first five attempts of the night, and turned in a super 7-of-9 performance that included 2-of-2 from O’Neale and Heslip and 3-of-3 from the inconsistent shooter, Chery. They hit a couple more in the second half to finish 11-of-18 on the night, but the treys that rained down on one end (and didn’t on the other) is what allowed Baylor to blow the game up in the first half and coast from there.
- Farewell to McBuckets. Only one team can walk away from a college basketball season in great spirits, but when the presumptive National Player of the Year goes out on such a foul and sour note, it’s a real shame. Taking nothing away from Baylor at all — the Bears were clearly the better team here — but it would have been great to see McDermott leave the game of college basketball on a higher note in a Sweet Sixteen or beyond. He never made it to the second weekend in his four-year career, but man, did he give us a bunch of great moments along the way. Over 3,000 points later, a guy who wasn’t considered good enough to play at the high-major level leaves as one of the all-time greats. Thank you, Doug, and godspeed.
Star of the Game. Isaiah Austin, Baylor. We could have honestly chosen one of about five Bears here, but Austin had one of the better games we’ve ever seen him play, so he’s the call. His 17-point, four-rebound, three-block performance belies his defensive presence in mostly one-on-one coverage that allowed the other defenders to stay out on the ever-dangerous Creighton three-point shooters. Without that, Creighton may have found its shooting groove early and this could have been a much different game.
Sights & Sounds. We all know that the NCAA Tournament can be the cruelest of mistresses, and it was a very sad moment when with about 2:30 minutes to go in the game, McDermott was pulled along with the rest of the starters. He immediately embraced his old man, head coach Greg McDermott, and tears were shed as he walked into a circle of his teammates. Media row has its protocols forbidding partisanship, but this writer had no problem whatsoever standing up and clapping for one of the best college basketball players we’ve had the experience of enjoying. We will miss you, Dougie McBuckets.
What’s Next? Baylor moves on to the West Regional in Anaheim, where it will face #2 Wisconsin on Thursday night (guessing it will be the early game). Creighton will head home with its third straight round of 32 exit from the NCAA Tournament.