Early Thursday games are not friendly to Baylor. For the second straight year ,the Bears are one and done in the NCAA tournament after being upset by a double digit seed. Last year, it was Georgia State hitting a miracle three to escape with a win. This year, it was Yale building a dominant double digit lead before a late Baylor rally fell short. Well actually, it trickled away as Lester Medford committed a crippling turnover with seconds remaining and the Bears down just 2 points.
Trailing 64-51 with under 8-minutes to go, the Bears looked lost on defense and frustrated on offense. The Bulldogs kept Baylor off the offensive glass, and kept hitting open shots. Their patient offensive attack ate up the Bears zone, and when the Bears switched to their man defense, Yale guard Makai Mason abused his defender for bucket after bucket. The sophomore guard scored a career high 31 points on 9-18 shooting, including a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line.
Baylor would make their move, cutting the lead to 6 points at 66-60 with over 4-minutes to go. The teams would trade baskets and free throws before a Taurean Prince three-pointer cut the lead to 72-68. Then Ish Wainright forced a turnover, saved the ball and fed Jake Lindsey for a layup to cut the lead to two points with 1:14 left.
The Bears would trap again, this time with Lindsey and Wainright around Mason, but Ish Wainright would be called for a foul as Mason traveled and head-butted Wainright backing into him. It was a dubious foul call, and put the star guard on the line to extend the lead back to four points.
After more free throws and a Lester Medford layup for his only points of the game, Taurean Prince would knock down a wing 3-pointer to cut the lead to 76-75 with 16.9 seconds remaining. The Bears once again attempted to trap the Bulldogs, but senior Nick Victor would get loose down the court and draw a foul with 6 seconds remaining. Victor would make the first one, and then airball the second to give the Bears one final chance.
With Lester Medford getting the ball, he charged up the court, and attempted to penetrate the paint with a behind the back dribble that he lost. The ball fell right to Yale post Brandon Sherrod who would hit two free throws to ice the game.
Yale shot over 50% for the game, including 69% in the first half to build a 5-point halftime lead. Baylor shot over 50% in the first half, but at one point in the second half, was just 9-31 from the field. Their late rally put them over 44% for the game, but there were a lot of missed shots that the Bears would probably want back.
Taurean Prince led the Bears with 28 points on 12-24 shooting, but only Jonathan Motley would join him in double figures points with 15. The Baylor starting guard duo of Lester Medford and Al Freeman were just 3-12 from the field for 8 points, compared to the Yale starting backcourt putting up 36 points.
Outside of Prince and Motley, Baylor made just 13-34, a 38% rate. With senior starters Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince and Lester Medford graduating, this will be a very different Baylor team in 2017. Hopefully, one that can bounce back from back-to-back early exits in the NCAA tournament to lower seeded teams.