Rushed Reactions: #3 Baylor 82, #11 USC 78Posted by Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) on March 19th, 2017
RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) is in Tulsa this weekend.
Three Key Takeaways
- Baylor dominated the interior. The Bears did what they always do and took care of business in the paint on the offensive end. Junior Johnathan Motley finished with 19 points and junior Terry Maston added 19 of his own. As a team, Baylor finished with 40 points — nearly half of their total — in the paint. The Bears also managed to grab 14 offensive rebounds to help extend possessions and create extra scoring opportunities. USC’s zone defense helped open up opportunities for their opponent to crash the offensive glass. This is the second big performance for Maston — he also put up 19 points in Baylor’s opening round game against New Mexico State.
- USC made up for it with threes. The Trojans didn’t go away quietly, though, finding opportunities to exploit Baylor’s defense — whether zone or man — from behind the three-point arc. As a team, USC finished 9-of-22 (40.9%) from deep and it was Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart who led the way. Boatwright hit 4-of-9 triples while Stewart made three of his six attempts. The three-point shot can be a great equalizer in basketball as it opens up the game offensively and puts an extra point on the board. Against Baylor, Chimezie Metu was the beneficiary of the extra spacing. He finished with 28 points.
- Manu Lecomte was the hero. With Motley on the bench with four fouls, Baylor coach Scott Drew made a surprising decision to play a smaller lineup. The Bears have spent most of their time on the court this season with two traditional bigs, so this was a big departure for their norm. Drew was rewarded by point guard Manu Lecomte. The junior had struggled for most of the game, but found an extra gear during its most crucial stretch. He scored eight of his 12 points during a 46 second stretch to help build Baylor’s lead.
Star of the Game. While Motley’s stat line was a bit better, this award has to go to Terry Maston for his second straight important performance off the bench. In addition to his 19 points, the junior grabbed nine boards and collected a pair of steals.
- “I thought coming into this game both teams were very similar. Both of us play so well being down. I actually joked with Andy [about that]. We knew it was going to come down to the last couple minutes of the game. I thought we really did a better job executing down the stretch when it mattered most.” — Baylor coach Scott Drew.
- “I just had to pick it up. I was struggling a little bit in the first half. My teammates did a great job believing in me. They kept me in the game. I just had to go out there and make plays.” — Baylor forward Manu Lecomte.
Sights and Sounds. After the game, Drew brought his entire team over for the postgame interview and emphasized the importance of their chemistry and depth. Those two traits have served the Bears well this season as they’re headed to their first Sweet Sixteen since 2014.
What’s Next. USC is headed home after a surprising run to the Round of 32 while Baylor moves on to the Sweet Sixteen at Madison Square Garden. The Bears will face either Duke or South Carolina.