KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If Baylor played TCU every game, Scott Drew would have the least stressful coaching job in the country.
While Wednesday night’s Big 12 tournament opener had a little more anxiety than Drew would have liked, the Bears still pulled off a 76-68 win over the Horned Frogs at the Sprint Center.
Baylor’s win wasn’t nearly as lopsided as an 88-62 blowout of TCU at the Ferrell Center on Jan. 11 or a 91-58 thrashing on Feb. 12 in Fort Worth.
But the win was the 200th for Drew in 11 seasons at Baylor, which puts him one short of the school record of 201 wins set by Bill Henderson from 1941-61.
“As far as 200, it just says I’m getting older,” Drew said. “We weren’t nearly as good as we’ve been or need to be. But at the end of the day, we got the win which was important. We know we have to play better and look forward to having that opportunity tomorrow.”
The seventh-seeded Bears (22-10) won for the eighth time in the last nine Big 12 games to advance to a quarterfinals game against second-seeded Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Thursday. The injury-ridden and outmatched Horned Frogs (9-22) went 0-19 in Big 12 games this season.
“We’ll be a different team tomorrow, I guarantee you that,” Baylor guard Brady Heslip said. “I feel like we got sloppy and didn’t execute like we have been. We didn’t play our best game, but thankfully we won and got it out of our system.”
The Bears rolled into Wednesday’s game knowing they had accomplished enough to land an NCAA tournament berth no matter how they perform in the Big 12 tournament. But another win certainly didn’t hurt their résumé, even if it was over the league’s last-place team.
Tenth-seeded TCU only had one starter standing over 6-6, and Baylor senior forward Cory Jefferson exploited the mismatch as he finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Jefferson had plenty of support as Isaiah Austin finished with 18 points and four rebounds and Royce O’Neale collected 14 points and 12 boards. The Bears won the boards by a 39-22 margin.
“We try to get the rebounds, and we knew that was important,” O’Neale said. “We knew we have an advantage because they’re missing their big man, and we went after the boards. We knew they were going to battle, but we had to stay composed.”
After the Bears opened up a 65-49 lead in the second half, the Horned Frogs went on a 14-4 run to make a game of it. Jarvis Ray’s steal and slam cut Baylor’s lead to 69-63 with 2:33 remaining.
But Austin scored inside, drew a foul and hit the free throw to give the Bears a 72-63 edge with 2:01 remaining. Austin later scored on a drive to push Baylor’s lead to 74-64.
“Credit TCU because they really made some big shots,” Drew said. “We had some opportunities to get rebounds and they made some great hustle plays and came up with them and we didn’t secure them. The most important thing was to survive and advance, and we did that tonight.”
With O’Neale and Heslip burying treys, the Bears scored the game’s first eight points and never trailed the rest of the way.
Karviar Shepherd broke TCU’s early scoring drought with a basket in the paint, but Austin answered with a shot in the paint and Heslip nailed his second trey to give the Bears a 15-3 lead. Baylor hit five of its first seven shots.
The Bears kept rolling as Rico Gathers rebounded and scored and Taurean Price hit a pair of free throws. Christian Gore came off the bench to nail a 3-pointer for the Horned Frog before Gathers answered with a bank shot to push Baylor’s lead to 22-9 with 12:18 left in the first half.
The Horned Frogs finally started finding some offensive consistency as Gore scored again from 3-point range and Kyan Anderson drilled a pair of treys. But they couldn’t stop the Bears from scoring inside as Jefferson and O’Neale scored on putbacks to open up a 32-16 lead with 5:27 remaining in the first half.
TCU sliced Baylor’s lead to single digits at 36-27 with Ray’s slam with 1:26 left in the first half. But Kenny Chery answered with a trey from the top of the arc to give the Bears a 39-27 halftime edge.
The Bears opened the second half with an 8-3 run to grab a 47-30 lead as Jefferson got inside twice for baskets and Jefferson threw down a dunk.
After another Jefferson dunk, the Horned Frogs showed they still had some life as they went on an 11-2 run to cut Baylor’s lead to 51-44 with 12:39 remaining.
Hudson Price and Gore were the catalysts with 3-pointers before Ray hit a pair of shots. Gore also scored on a drive to the basket to cut Baylor’s lead to seven, and had a chance to push TCU within six before missing a free throw.
Once again, the Horned Frogs couldn’t contain the Bears inside as they scored their next four baskets in the paint to stretch their lead to 61-47 midway through the second half.
Jefferson got loose for another slam before O’Neale and Prince scored on putbacks and drew fouls. O’Neale and Prince each hit their free throws to complete three-point plays to open up a 59-46 lead with 10:57 remaining.
Prince scored on a drive, Gary Franklin buried a trey and Jefferson scored again inside as the Bears stretched their lead to 65-49.