The Baylor Bears traveled up to the greater northwest this weekend and came out of it with their 4th loss of the season. Strangely, it was a frustrating yet uplifting loss, at least in my eyes. The Bears did a great job of hanging around in one of the tougher environments that a "mid-major" can offer. However, outside of a few missed opportunities, the Bears never really had a chance to pull off the upset late in the game. So why am I upset and happy about this game? Let's dig in.
Reasons to be happy:
The Bears played pretty well, against one of the best teams in the country in my mind. I think the Zags are a Top 8 team easily this year, and the Bears went up there and played tough. They were dealt a pretty difficult hand in this one, mainly due to their own doing. The Baylor post players were in foul trouble for most of the game, with a majority of the fouls coming in non-shooting events.
On four occasions, one of the four post players that the Bears rolled out were called for fouls simply for challenging post entry passes incorrectly. They would reach around and try and get a hand on the ball, something that will almost always get a foul called on you, even if you do it perfectly. Another foul was called at half-court as Isaiah Austin tried to trap a Kevin Pangos. This not only was his fourth foul, it sent a guy that couldn't miss to the free throw line.
The foul trouble of Cory Jefferson, Ricardo Gathers and Isaiah Austin put the Bears into some tough positions. They had to play Taurean Prince for 7 minutes, which resulted in 3 fouls and some tough match ups against Elias Harris or one of the multiple 7-footers Gonzaga ran out there. It also had the Bears playing 4 guards for a brief time, which allowed the Zags to continue a big run they were on.
In spite of all of this, the Bears hung tough. Every time the Bulldogs got up by double digits, the Bears would hit a few big shots and get the game back in reach. Pierre Jackson shot the ball well, especially in the second half on his way to 26 points. Isaiah Austin showed the vast array of skills that has the NBA drooling over him, as he had dunks, post moves, mid range jumpers, driving layups and hit a few three-pointers as well.
The Bears also did very well on the glass against a great rebounding team. Baylor was only out-rebounded by 2 and did very well to hold Gonzaga to just 11 offensive rebounds. Austin and Jefferson especially did well on the glass, getting 8 and 6 rebounds apiece.
Reasons to not be happy:
Yes, the Bears were in this game, but were they ever in a position to win it? Only one instance did I feel that we had a chance to really get this game. With 5:21 left in the game, the Bears were down 80-74 after Pierre Jackson knocked down another big three-pointer. The Bears would play one of their better defensive possessions of the last 10 minutes, and force a tough 3-point shot from Elias Harris. This is a shot the Bears want him to take. He predictably missed it. Austin got a tough rebound in the paint and got the ball to Jackson with the Bears having numbers. Pierre stopped at the 3-point line with numbers (and Cory Jefferson in rebounding position) and had a great look, which he missed. Luckily, Jefferson got the rebound and kicked it out to a wide open Brady Heslip.
This is the shot Heslip has to hit almost every time. No one was within 5 feet of him. Brady shot it in rhythm and missed it terribly. I don't even think it hit rim, as it bounced hard off the back board setting up a Gonzaga fastbreak that resulted in a Kevin Pangos made three-pointer. All of a sudden it went from a game that could have been to a 3 point lead to another 9 point hole. The lead would never get under 7 again.
The Bears struggled to stop the interior scoring of Gonzaga all night, especially without fouling. Kelly Olynyk was 9-12 from the field for 21 points and his front court mate Elias Harris chipped in another 17 points. The star of the game though was Kevin Pangos, who scored a game high 31 points on 10-13 shooting, including 7-10 from the 3-point line. Honestly, I was shocked Pangos missed three. He missed his first one, but I couldn't remember another miss from him all game. The worst part, most of the shots were wide open after the Bears left him to help in the post.
The Baylor defense was carved up by a very good offense. They could not guard the post without bringing help, and then they never proved they could rotate to cover the shooters that the original help defenders left.
Though Jackson did score 26 points, it took him 19 shots to get it, and he committed 7 turnovers, including several very costly ones late as the Bears were mounting their comeback. Pierre was outplayed by Kevin Pangos, the Gonzaga point guard.
Finally, the Bears just are not getting to the foul line enough. This was one of the biggest areas of weakness last year. We did not do a good job of attacking and getting to the free throw line. This year, it might be even worse. Pierre Jackson is our only player that knows how to draw a foul. Austin is too light to finish through contact so he avoids it, while Gathers just doesn't have that wrinkle to his game yet. I had hope Jefferson could give us one guy in the low post that we could get the ball too that could get us a few trips to the free throw line, but he just hasn't.
This issue with the Bears reared its ugly head against Gonzaga as they failed to pick up a foul in the last 12:20 of the first half after Gonzaga committed its 6th of the game. Baylor had a golden opportunity to get to the free throw line and get some easy points, but they seemed to just forget about all of that. Fittingly, the aforementioned Olynyk picked up his 2nd foul with 13:25 left in the first half, and would not pick up his 3rd for over 23 minutes of game action. The Bears had a chance to take one of the best post players on Gonzaga out of the game, and they just did not. Is that an issue with style, coaching, or just simple basketball IQ?
Player of the Game:
Isaiah Austin - For now on, this is how I want to see Austin play. Outside of the two pretty stupid fouls that he had, he played about as well as he could. In 30 minutes, he had 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a block. He struggled a bit with low post defense, especially denying post position against the bigger Gonzaga post players, but when he could push them out a few feet, he had great position and stayed down and challenged shots well. Austin also displayed all of the offensive skills that he has been blessed with. His mid range shot was pure, he hit two big 3-pointers and had a few nice post moves.
Overreaction Central - Baylor Vs. Gonzaga
Bears Illustrated Top Stories
5-Things: Ready for the CyclonesThe 4-0 Baylor Bears travel to Ames, IA to take on the 1-3 Iowa State Cyclones Saturday morning. What are 5-things you need to know about the Cyclones?
Bears Illustrated10:34 AM
Big 12 Power Rankings: Week 4With Big 12 games under way, we look at where the conference stands after week 4
Bears Illustrated8:03 AM
Images from Baylor vs. Oklahoma StateImages from the Bears 35-24 victory over Oklahoma State to get to 4-0 on the season.
Bears IllustratedSunday at 10:14 AM
From the Notebook: Baylor vs. OSUThe Bears gutted out a tough win over Oklahoma State Saturday night in a game started with a 90 minute delay and ending with turnovers and touchdowns.
Bears IllustratedSunday at 9:54 AM