SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Baylor’s interior defense and outside shooting trumped Creighton’s star and all of the Bluejays’ motivation.
No. 6-seeded Baylor drained 11 3-pointers, clamped down on Creighton forward Doug McDermott and bumped the No. 3-seeded Bluejays from NCAA Tournament 85-55 on Sunday in a third-round West Region game at the AT&T Center.
McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer at 26.9 points per game, had three points at halftime and finished with 15, but still led Creighton in scoring.
Baylor, which has won eight of its last 10 NCAA Tournament games, advances to play Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif. The Bears (26-11) advanced to the region final in each of their last two tournament trips in 2010 and 2012.
But Baylor had not defeated a higher-seeded team during that run, a trend the Bears overturned against Creighton (27-8).
Baylor coach Scott Drew said seeds don’t matter to him, though. This time of year the only objective is to survive and advance.
“When you’re in the NCAA Tournament, when you don’t play well, you go home,” Drew said. “It doesn’t matter what the seed is. You control what you can control and you have to play well to advance.”
Baylor guards Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip each hit their first four 3-point attempts. Heslip finished with 17 points while Chery had 14. Baylor went 11-for-18 from beyond the 3-point arc, most of the misses coming after the game was already in hand. The Bears shot 64 percent from the field.
“I felt like they sagged off from me, and one thing I did was take advantage of that,” Chery said. “My big men found me when I was wide open. That’s one thing I have to credit them for. I made shots.”
On the inside, Baylor center Isaiah Austin scored 17 points and forward Cory Jefferson added 14. They combined for three blocks and kept Creighton tentative whenever the Bluejays had the ball inside the 3-point arc.
“We did a good job of contesting shots, limiting shots to certain players,” Drew said. “Today we were blessed they missed it and we rebounded.”
Creighton could not find its rhythm on offense until early in the second half, and by that time the Bluejays trailed by 20 and could not stop the Bears.
“If we were going to win, we were going to have to make shots,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “The reality of it is we didn’t make shots and they did.”
The Bluejays, who averaged 10.3 3-pointers per game entering the Baylor contest, went 5-for-24 from 3-point range. McDermott and forward Ethan Wragge were a combined 2-for-9.
“If you’d have told me that Wragge and McDermott would have two threes for the game, I’d have told you we’d take that every day of the week,” Drew said.
Creighton fell a win short of the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. Bluejays coach McDermott put subs in the game and pulled his seniors out one by one, sharing a long embrace with his son.
Doug McDermott said it will be difficult to put this loss behind him.
“This is the worst we played all season,” McDermott said. “It just stinks that it’s the last one. It doesn’t take away from all my memories here. We still won three games in the NCAA Tournament the last three years. But it’s hard to end on something like this.”
Baylor raced to a 20-point lead at halftime on the strength of hot 3-point shooting.
The Bears hit 7-of-9 3-pointers in the first half as Chery went 3-for-3, Heslip went 2-for-2 and forward Royce O’Neale went 2-for-2.
Baylor was already ahead by 13 when it produced a 9-2 run late in the first half. Heslip hit a 3-pointer and O’Neale capped the run with a trey to give the Bears a 20-point lead for the first time, 38-18, with 2:42 left before the break.
Baylor’s zone defense frustrated Creighton in the first 20 minutes as the Bluejays shot 37 percent overall and 11 percent from 3-point range.
NOTES: Creighton fell to 3-1 all-time against Baylor. … Baylor reached the regional final in its two previous tournament trips, losing to Duke in the
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