With Oregon’s 7-2 freshman sensation Bol Bol sitting on the bench in a boot, Baylor did everything it could to attack the vulnerable Ducks in the paint.
Dishes to Tristan Clark and Mark Vital were the order of the night.
Clark collected 13 points and eight rebounds while Vital finished with 11 points and eight boards as the Bears overcame the Ducks, 57-47, before 7,411 fans Friday night at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (7-4) dominated the boards by a 33-18 margin and led by as many as 16 points early in the second half. The Ducks (8-4) cut the lead to 47-45, but Baylor closed with a 10-2 run to seal the win.
It was a satisfying ending for the Bears after watching SFA close with a 10-1 run for a stunning 59-58 win Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.
“It was very encouraging,” Clark said. “Last game, unfortunately we lost in the last five minutes. They just beat us. This game, we made sure we were going to play the whole game and play tough the whole game. We made sure the first five minutes were important and the last five minutes were important. We just did our job and we got the victory.”
With Bol missing his third straight game with a foot injury, a big hole was left in the middle of Oregon’s defense and the Bears furiously attacked it. Bol, the son of former NBA star Manute Bol, is averaging a team-high 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in nine games.
“When we penetrated, we were able to get some post touches easier,” said Baylor guard Makai Mason, who finished with 14 points and four assists. “Like Tristan said, once we got him the ball, if he’s one-on-one, he’s going to score that. If not, the defense is going to key in on him and that’s wide-open shots for us.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew thought his team did everything it needed to pull out a win against a strong Oregon basketball program that made the Final Four in 2017.
“I thought the guys really did a good job locking in,” Drew said. “First thing you worry about on holidays is are guys checked out mentally, meaning are they more worried about how they’re getting home and what they’re doing over the break than finishing it out? Our guys were locked in. It was a great team effort. Defensively, we did what we’re really good at.”
Baylor’s zone defense was so effective that Oregon hit just one of its first 15 shots. The Bears went into halftime with a 28-16 lead before opening up a 37-21 lead in the early minutes of the second half.
But the Ducks finally found their shooting groove and began cutting into Baylor’s lead. With Payton Pritchard draining four second-half 3-pointers, the Ducks sliced the lead to 47-45 with 3:30 remaining.
“We were stagnant (in the first half), the ball wasn’t moving,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman. “It didn’t translate very well what we worked on in practice to the game scenario. We weren’t very aggressive, and when we did get aggressive, we just made the wrong decisions. But he (Pritchard) hit a few 3s and got us back into the game. Guys moved it a little bit better and we made some better plays.”
The Bears were without Vital in the closing minutes after he fell hard on his back while trying to grab a rebound with 6:43 remaining. Drew said Vital is OK, but Baylor chose to rest him the rest of the game.
“Mark’s such a warrior, he wanted to go back in the game,” Drew said. “But he’s got a couple days now to get healthy and get right. I know that was a hard fall. Certain guys tend to stay down longer than others. He’s one of those guys that if he stays down, he’s hurt.”
But instead of collapsing like they did against SFA, the Bears finished strong.
Mason nailed a floater to give the Bears a 49-45 lead. After Oregon’s Louis King missed an outside shot, Mario Kegler hit a free throw for the Bears.
Pritchard finally cooled off and missed a 3-pointer and Mason drove for a basket. Then freshman Jared Butler made a sensational spin move past Victor Bailey for a basket to push Baylor’s lead to 54-45 with 55 seconds remaining.
After Kegler hit another free throw, Bailey hit a short jumper for the Ducks with 38 seconds left. But Mason, who has been battling an ankle injury all season, finished off Baylor’s win with a pair of free throws with 35 seconds remaining.
Now the Bears will have eight days to prepare before hosting New Orleans on Dec. 29 in the final nonconference game before opening Big 12 play at TCU on Jan. 5.
“I’d really like for Makai to be 100 percent so everybody could see what he’s really capable of,” Drew said. “And I think this break will get him the closest he’s been to that. Your point guard, it’s kind of like the quarterback, if he can scramble and all of a sudden he can’t scramble, it really limits what you can do offensively. He can create for others, he can score for others, and if we can get him healthy, I think Baylor Nation will really enjoy cheering for him.”