The unthinkable Baylor turnaround is complete.
The Baylor Bears dominated Gonzaga from the start of Monday’s national championship to the end, winning 86-70 to take home their first ever national championship. They also denied Gonzaga and Mark Few their first national championship, as well as a perfect season.
Baylor got off to a 9-0 lead, led by 19 (33-14), and cruised to victory in the second half. Gonzaga briefly got the game to single-digits in the second half before Baylor regained control.
It was clear from the start that it was Baylor’s night and that Gonzaga was toast.
Baylor forced the Bulldogs into several turnovers early and turned them into points, resulting in the Bears building up their lead. Jalen Suggs picked up two fouls in just over the first three minutes of the game, which got his team off on shaky ground.
Meanwhile, Baylor played like the machine they were for most of the season and NCAA Tournament. The Bears got 22 points from star Jared Butler, 19 from MaCio Teague, and Adam Flagler scored 12 off the bench. They made 44.8 percent of their shots, highlighted by 10-for-23 shooting on threes (43.5 percent) and 16-for-18 on free throws (88.9 percent).
Though Gonzaga entered as the undefeated team and finishes 31-1, Baylor was right there with them as the best team in the country. The Bears finish the season 28-2, with losses only to Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Gonzaga may have been spent after their exhausting, emotional overtime win over UCLA in the Final Four on Saturday. They certainly didn’t look ready to play on Monday night, and they were no match for Baylor, which brought its A-game.
It’s hard to fathom what Scott Drew has now done at Baylor. Drew took the Baylor job in the summer of 2003 after the major scandal in the program. Patrick Dennehy was killed by a teammate, Carlton Dotson. Dotson later pleaded guilty to the charges. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dave Bliss later accused Dennehy of being a drug dealer.
The program was penalized by the NCAA, had to overcome transfers and a reputational hit. Drew somehow managed to turn Baylor into a power in the Big 12 despite all that, and now, a national champion.