CONWAY, S.C. — Baylor has a habit of winning big nonconference basketball games that will shine on its NCAA tournament resume in March.
With Jared Butler pouring in 22 points and MaCio Teague hitting 18, the No. 24 Bears overcame No. 17 Villanova, 87-78, on Sunday to win the Myrtle Beach Invitational championship.
It marked Baylor’s third impressive pre-conference tournament title in the last four seasons. The Bears knocked off Michigan State and Louisville in the 2016 Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas before beating Wisconsin and Creighton in the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.
Villanova (4-2) is one of the premier programs in the country, winning NCAA championships in 2016 and 2018.
“Anytime you beat a two-time national champion, you have to beat them, they’re not going to beat themselves,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew in his postgame radio interview. “Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in the game. It was one of those games you knew would be 40 minutes and go down to who would execute a little better down the stretch. We hit some big shots.”
Butler was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after scoring 53 points in three games, including 19 in Baylor’s 76-53 win over Ohio in Thursday’s opener, followed by a 12-point performance in Friday’s 77-65 win over Coastal Carolina.
Against Villanova, Butler nailed four of eight 3-pointers and also dished out three assists.
“It was great basketball,” Butler said. “When you grow up, you want to play in these games. It was fun. Jay Wright is really respected and we want to be one of those teams that’s respected too.”
Teague, who made the all-tournament team, was also hot from 3-point range as he nailed four of six. Davion Mitchell contributed 13 points while Tristan Clark and Matthew Mayer added 10 apiece as the Bears shot 52.5 percent overall while draining 11 of 19 3-pointers and 14 of 18 free throws. Baylor committed just five turnovers while forcing 12.
The Bears (5-1) have won four straight games since letting a double-digit second-half lead slip away in a 67-64 loss to Washington on Nov. 8 in Anchorage.
“No one likes to lose, but I think the game against Washington really helped us, and down the stretch tonight we made a lot of big plays,” Drew said. “We did a lot of good things, but at the end of the day the biggest thing is they were two of 11 from 3 in the second half and that was critical for us. We did a great job defending the 3.”
The Bears overcame a hot performance by Villanova guard Collin Gillespie, who scored a game-high 27 points while collecting six assists.
With 18 lead changes, the game was a shootout from the outset. The Wildcats went into halftime with a 41-38 lead when Teague fouled Saddiq Bey on a 3-point attempt with 0.4 seconds left and he drained all three free throws.
The Wildcats stretched their lead to 57-51 when Jermaine Samuels buried a trey and Bey scored on a putback with 12:51 remaining. But the Bears answered with six straight points as Devonte Bandoo hit a jumper, Mark Vital nailed a pair of free throws and Teague scored on a drive.
The teams kept trading baskets before Butler drained a trey and Teague hit a pair of free throws to give the Bears a 72-67 edge with 4:58 remaining.
The Bears never trailed again as Butler hit a jumper and then passed to Bandoo, who buried a trey to stretch the lead to 77-71 with 3:10 remaining.
“Equally important as Jared hitting 3s, he did the right thing to get the ball to Bandoo for the 3,” Drew said. “We have a lot of different weapons. So when anyone gets hot, we want them to shoot the right shot, but also be able to get the ball to a teammate for a good shot.”
Baylor broke Villanova’s press as Clark threw down a slam and then hit a layup to open up an 84-77 lead with a minute remaining to seal the win.