Baylor doesn't know when to stop. At least not yet.
The Bears claimed their first NCAA Tournament victory in 60 years when it topped Sam Houston State in the opening round. Then, they outlasted Old Dominion 76-68 to advance to the South Regional.
By reaching that round in Houston, the third-seeded Bears could draw a huge following as they meet 10th-seeded St. Mary's, upset winners over Richmond and Villanova. The regional semifinal is scheduled March 26.
"This means a lot, not only for me but for all of Baylor," said junior guard LaceDarius Dunn. "I've never been to the Sweet 16, but we know it's something big. Tweety (Carter) and I had a lot of our friends and family here (at New Orleans), but I'm going to take them all to Houston."
By drawing a third-seed after tying for second place in the Big 12, Baylor figured to make some noise. Still, there was no guarantee considering the Bears' last win in the tournament was in 1950, the second of two Final Four appearances BU made in a three-year span.
One encouraging prospect for Baylor as it moves on is the versatility it can rely on offensively. Josh Lomers, a center who typically just takes up space on the defensive end to make it hard for opponents to rebound, scored 12 points during a critical stretch against ODU and matched his career-best of 14.
Occasionally the Bears need to find additional output considering they beat Sam Houston State, despite just 15 collective points from Dunn and Carter, who couldn't solve a triangle-and-two defense.
"I definitely didn't want this to be my last game," Lomers said. "So you do what you can for the team. Anytime you get the ball in the paint, you get a chance to bring down the defense."
If the most unproductive scorer in the lineup provides that kind of contribution, Baylor is going to be a tough out as long as Dunn and Carter remain hot and forward Ekpe Udoh is an imposing presence on both ends.
--Among those behind the bench supporting Baylor during the New Orleans sub-regional of the NCAA Tournament was former LSU coach Dale Brown. Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, who is the father of Baylor coach Scott Drew, was once an assistant under Brown at LSU. Scott Drew's younger brother, Bryce, also sat behind the Baylor bench during the first two games.
--Oddly, the Sam Houston coach who devised a triangle-and-two defense that confused Baylor in the opening round, was groomed by one of the Bears' former coaches. Bob Marlin was an assistant at Houston Baptist under Gene Iba, who later coached at Baylor from 1985-92 Marlin didn't dare credit Iba, however. "For him to be (at the game) and for us to play (triangle-and-two) was even more surprising to him," Marlin said.
COACH: Scott Drew, seven years at Baylor, second at NCAA Tournament.
KEYS TO VICTORY: Improvement both defensively, and on the glass, keyed Baylor's rise this season. The Bears will rely on their 2-3 zone, particularly with F Ekpe Udoh so adept at blocking shots after setting a Big 12 record with 124. But Baylor can also settle into a feisty man defense if opponents get hot from the perimeter. G Tweety Carter is superb running the floor. He led the Big 12 with a 6.1 average in assists and can also pop from outside. G LaceDarius Dunn must play within himself and not be content rushing jumpers, especially if he is cold. Playing through Udoh or any of the other bigs is essential.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not going to brag on myself at all. I'm going to brag on the players. I think they deserve all the credit. They have great leadership, togetherness and chemistry." -- Baylor coach Scott Drew.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING REPORT: Baylor is capable of playing with any team in the country because of the matchup problems it creates. C Ekpe Udoh is a defensive force, but can also influence games on the offensive glass. F Quincy Acy, a backup, registered 10 dunks in one game. Outside firepower is also plentiful, especially if G Tweety Carter and G LaceDarius Dunn are hot at the same time. Dunn was as good as anyone in the Big 12 creating his own shot, while Carter is skilled creating opportunities as the league's assist leader and went 37 minutes without a turnover against Old Dominion. C Josh Lomers can be an offensive liability -- he's known more for setting screens than scoring, despite 14 points vs. ODU -- but takes up space as one of three players 6-10 or taller who start for the Bears.
Baylor 86, Texas 67 (Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals).
Kansas State 82, Baylor 75 (Big 12 Tournament semifinals).
Baylor 68, Sam Houston State 59 (NCAA Tournament first round).
Baylor 76, Old Dominion 68 (NCAA Tournament second round).
vs. St. Mary's, Friday, March 26, NCAA Tournament, South Regional semifinals.
--G Tweety Carter set a national prep record with 7,457 points growing up in Reserve, La., which is close to Baylor's sub-regional site of New Orleans. But Carter made just 1 of 3 shots in the NCAA opener before posting 12 points and eight assists in the second-round win against Old Dominion.
--C Josh Lomers matched his career-high of 14 points against ODU and also recorded eight rebounds, three blocks and four steals.
--G LaceDarius Dunn also rebounded from an off game in the first round by scoring 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting against ODU.