No. 1 Baylor beats Villanova to move 1 win away from Final Four

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Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) drives past Villanova guard Justin Moore (5) in the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Top-seeded Baylor overcame some frigid outside shooting Saturday to move into the Elite Eight, getting 16 points from Adam Flagler in a 62-51 victory over Villanova and its amoeba-like defense.

The Bears (25-2) came in as the nation’s leading 3-point team, shooting 41.5%, but made only 3 of 19 in this one, unable to find room or get into a comfort zone against fifth-seeded Villanova’s mix of 2-3 zone and man. Davion Mitchell, a 46% shooter from 3 this season, went 0 for 3 in a 14-point night.

Baylor, which started the season 18-0 and won its first-ever Big 12 regular-season title, is one win from the Final Four for the first time since 2012. The Bears will play the winner of Saturday night’s game between Arkansas and Oral Roberts.

This game changed midway through the second half when Baylor all but abandoned what is normally its go-to shot — the 3. The Bears took a six-point lead with a 14-2 run during which not a single point came from outside the arc.

The Bears played some defense, too.

Constantly harassing Villanova shooters who’d carved out space in the first half, Baylor held Villanova to 37.5% shooting in the second and 0 for 9 from 3. Jay Wright’s team scored 10 points over the final 11 minutes. During one stretch in the decisive run, Baylor forced five straight turnovers on ‘Nova possessions. Baylor had four of its five blocked shots in the second half.

The Wildcats got 16 points from Jermaine Samuels, but only three from Caleb Daniels on 1-for-11 shooting.

Villanova (18-7) came in without injured point guard Collin Gillespie and with a middling defense at best, but looked to be turning things around for a while. There were mini-victories. This marked only the second time the high-powered Baylor offense was held under 65 points this season.

But this has had the makings of being Baylor’s year all season, and any residue from the pandemic-related breaks that halted the Bears’ momentum after a perfect start appear to have faded.

Even without the 3s, and even with off nights from the other two of the team’s high-powered guards, Baylor figured out a way to win. Jared Butler scored nine points on 1-for-9 shooting from 3, and MaCio Teague had five points and also didn’t make a 3.

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