Facing one of the best defenses in the nation, the Baylor Bears never got into a comfortable tempo and could never find their shooting stroke in a 70-50 loss to South Carolina in Sweet Sixteen action. Looking like the mid-90s Knicks who call Madison Square Garden their home, South Carolina challenged the Bears every move, pass and shot.
The Gamecocks took away the offensive rebounds and second chance points that Baylor relied on all season and got into a fast break offense consistently. Baylor shot just 30.4% from the field, after shooting 47.6% for the season. They missed from all spots on the court, especially down low as the shorter Gamecocks swarmed around the Bears at every chance.
Johnathan Motley led the Bears with 18 points, but 10 of those came late in the game with the Bears facing a 20-point deficit. The lone Bear in double figures, Motley needed 17 shots to get those points. The Baylor bench, which had been outstanding in the first two games in Tulsa, finished the game a combined 1-17 from the field.
The game started slow for the Bears, missing 10 of their first 11-shots. However, their defense kept them close, while taking a 15-13 lead with just under 10-minutes left in the first half. Baylor's offense would disappear though, as a 7-minute plus drought gave way to an 18-0 run for South Carolina to give them a 16-point lead.
South Carolina would carry a 15-point lead into the second half, and quickly stretch it to 20 points. The Bears would make one big push, using two Manu Lecomte three-pointers as part of a 10-0 run to pull within 11 points with 10:40 left in the second half.
Two back-to-back broken plays by the Gamecocks would result in 3-pointers though, extending the lead to 17 once again and halting any Baylor rallies. It was the last push for the Bears as they would never get it any closer than 16 points for the rest of the game.
The duo of Motley and Jo Acuil combined to shoot 12-23, with the rest of the Bears combining for 5-33 from the field. With South Carolina shooting 46% and getting 24 points from SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell, it was just too much for Baylor to contend with.
The Gamecocks made 8 of 20 three pointers, with Duan Notice hitting 3-4, and Thornwell making 4-10. The out-rebounded the Bears 41-36 and held the Bears to 15 offensive rebounds but very few second chance points to show for their efforts.
Baylor finishes the season 27-8 and in the Sweet 16. For what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and a down year expected by the experts, it was a season of first for the Bears. A championship in the Battle of Atlantis and a national #1 ranking for the first time in school history are the highlights. It was the fourth straight season for Baylor being selected to participate in the NCAA tournament, the first time in school history.
The Bears will lose senior Ish Wainright at least, as Johnathan Motley is projected to be a 1st round draft choice in the NBA if he chooses to leave early.