No. 5 Baylor and No. 8 UCLA both look to avoid leaving Las Vegas with consecutive losses when they meet Sunday in the consolation game of the Continental Tire Main Event.
Baylor (3-1) could not weather a 56-point second-half deluge from No. 16 Virginia in Friday’s semifinal matchup. The Cavaliers shot 8 of 12 from 3-point range after intermission and 13 of 20 overall from the floor.
The 56 points allowed after halftime nearly matched the Bears’ total yield their previous time out in a 95-62 rout of Northern Colorado on Monday, and exceeded their defensive allowance from the 117-53 blowout of Mississippi Valley State in the Nov. 7 season opener.
Baylor’s porous defense detracted from an impressive second 20 minutes out of the offense. The Bears scored 46 points in the second half and finished 11 of 26 from 3-point range and 12 of 14 from the free-throw line.
The Bears trio of Keyonte George, LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler combined for 54 points and knocked down 10 of 19 shots from behind the arc.
By the time Baylor’s offense gained steam, however, the Bears were digging out of a 22-point hole.
“Defensively they were turning us over and offensively they were getting good shots,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “If we’re not operating on offense, we have to at least get stops on defense so we can get easy buckets on offense.”
Virginia forced 13 Baylor turnovers that the Cavaliers converted into 21 points.
UCLA (3-1) fell 79-70 against No. 19 Illinois in Friday’s second semifinal.
The Bruins built a lead of 15 points early into the second half, but the Fighting Illini exploded for 50 of their 51 points in the period over the final 17:53.
Terrence Shannon Jr.’s sizzling 8-of-9 shooting from 3-point range gave him 29 points to go with 10 rebounds for the Illini.
“We wilted,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin told the Los Angeles Times after the loss. “When the game got turned up, the game got physical, they refused to go away, we caved. That’s my fault.”
The Bruins’ veteran perimeter duo of Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. went for 22 and 20 points, respectively, and combined for nine assists and six steals. But UCLA sputtered collectively on offense, shooting worse than 40 percent in both halves and finishing at 37.5 percent (27 of 72).
Jaylen Clark, who averaged 17.3 points over the Bruins’ first three games, finished with seven points.
“We weren’t tough enough to handle their pressure,” Jaquez told the Los Angeles Times.
On Sunday, the Bruins will look to regroup against a Baylor defense built on intense ball pressure. Five Bears have six or more steals, led by Dale Bonner with 11.
UCLA’s defense has held its four opponents to a combined 28.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. The Bruins face a Baylor offense connecting on 38.8 percent of its attempts from deep.
–Field Level Media