No. 25 Baylor bears down late against Wisconsin
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baylor “couldn’t buy a bucket” down the stretch, but the free-throw line was helpful as the Bears held off a charge by Wisconsin for a 70-65 victory in the second semifinal game of the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Monday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Baylor (4-0) will face Creighton, which defeated No. 23 UCLA 100-89 in Monday night’s first semifinal.
Wisconsin will face UCLA in the consolation game.
“The first half we shot 56 percent and everything was looking good,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “In the second half, we shot 25 percent and things (didn’t) look good. Going into the game, we had so much respect for Wisconsin. We knew they wouldn’t go away.”
Fortunately for Drew and the Bears, Manu Lecomte hit 13 of 15 from the free-throw line in the second half, none more critical than the three he hit when Wisconsin cut the 19-point lead to 57-55.
“We had the right guy at the free-throw line,” Drew said. “Manu was 13 of 15 from the line, and that’s what you’d expect from your senior point guard.
“The good thing about Manu is that if he’s not scoring he is a point guard. If they put two (defenders) on him, he does a good job of finding somebody else.”
For coach Greg Gard and the Badgers, there was plenty to ponder about how they fell behind by so many in a game they never led.
“If we could bottle the last 10 minutes and have that level of competitiveness and fight and execution of the game plan, we would have been in a much different position,” Gard said. “As they say, if you want to get out of the hole, stop digging. We were able to stop digging and fight our way back.
“I learned some things about who I need to have on the floor. I saw some good things down the stretch. It was another learning experience for our guys.”
Lecomte led Baylor with 24 points. Jo Lual-Acuil added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Terry Mastin had nine points for the Bears.
Wisconsin (2-2) was led by Ethan Happ with 23 points. Brad Davison added 13 and Aleem Ford chipped in 10.
Happ, a senior, said he needs to lead, by example and verbally, to let his teammates know about playing a full 40 minutes. “It’s kind of what we need to do to start the game,” he said. “We need to get guys to realize, myself included, that it’s going to be a dogfight from the very start.”
Baylor led by 12 at halftime, then gradually pulled away in the second half. The Bears led 53-34 with 11:14 left.
Wisconsin then went on a 21-4 run in the next 9:04 to cut the lead to 57-55 on a give-and-go to Happ.
Lecomte hit three free throws when he was fouled shooting a 3-pointer, and the Badgers never were able to grab the lead. Baylor hit 13 its last 14 free throws to ice the game.
NOTES: Baylor is 4-0 for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons. ... Baylor G Manu Lecomte has scored at least 17 points in all four games this season. ... This was the second meeting between the schools. Wisconsin defeated Baylor in the 2014 Sweet 16. They would have faced off in last year’s Elite Eight had they both won their Sweet 16 games, but neither team did. ... Six different Badgers have scored at least 12 points in a game this season.