"It's a huge disappointment, there's no question about that," said Dave Odom as he picked at a piece of tape on the table in front of him following the loss. "We played well enough to earn that 20 point lead, and to lose it is a huge disappointment for me personally, for our team, and for our staff."
Making the win all the sweeter for Baylor was the fact that they finally won a game on the road. The Bears came to Columbia having lost 25 straight true road games. The streak dated back nearly 3 years to December 30, 2004, when Baylor won at Purdue.
"We heard enough about [the streak]," said Baylor coach Scott Drew. "We didn't feel as much pressure, we just got tired of hearing about it."
The Bears and Gamecocks played evenly for the first 8 minutes of the game, and Carolina led just 20-17 at the under 12 media timeout. Carolina came out of the break on fire, and scored the next eight points. That started a 24 to 7 run that saw the Gamecocks eventually take a 20 point lead, 44-24. With 4 minutes left in the half, Carolina led 46-27. But Baylor was determined to make a game of it, and after switching to a zone defense, the Bears outscored Carolina 18-4 over the rest of the half.
"I thought we played very, very well over the first 15 minutes, maybe as well as we've played all year." Odom said. "They started shooting the basketball unconsciously. I think we really lost our confidence defensively, and it really had an effect on how we played offensively."
The second half saw more of the same, as Baylor scored 8 of the first 11 points to tie the game at 53. From that point on the Bears never looked back. Carolina's futility was best highlighted on Baylor's next possession. Henry Dugat drove to the rim and made a layup plus the foul. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the ball took a high bounce and Dugat raced in to put the rebound end before a single Gamecock touched the ball. The 4 point play gave the Bears their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, 8-7, 57-53, and the Gamecocks were unable to get that close again until 79-75 with 2:59 remaining. However, the Bears pulled away again, and coasted home for the win.
All told, Baylor went on a 44-10 run that spanned 13 minutes. The Bears led by as many as 15, 71-56 at the 11:06 mark. The key to the run was the switch to a zone defense. The zone kept Devan Downey from penetrating. Downey's ability to get in the lane led to 13 first half points, and was a key reason the Gamecocks went to the free throw line 15 times, making all 15 attempts. In the second half, Downey scored just 5 points, and Carolina was just 3-4 from the line.
"They went zone, and we never really found an answer for their zone," said Odom. "I think they figured they couldn't guard [Downey] one on one, and they went to the zone and they did send him outside more."
"We started scoring so that gave us more energy on defense," said Drew. "We started playing better defensively without fouling."
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