Baylor denies Gonzaga’s candidacy to perfection, wins first men’s basketball championship
Baylor University, just a generation away from one of the most disturbing scandals in college basketball history, captured sport ultimate price Monday night.
the The bears beat Gonzaga, 86-70, in the Division I title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, saving the Bulldogs a nerve-racking victory before a perfect season.
Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell, Baylor’s trio of energetic and sharp guards, scored 22, 19 and 15 points respectively to lead the Bears to the school’s first men’s basketball title.
Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs worked for his squad’s 22 strengths, but he couldn’t recreate the magic of his buzzer-beating winner in the national semi-final 48 hours earlier. The blow was that signing of the tournament.
Baylor took a 19-point lead on Monday, thanks to red shots, hard work on the boards and a stifling defense.
“We play with a culture of joy,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “They fed off each other, we got off to a great start.”
He thanked “our fans who have been with us through the lean (and) good years.”
Gonzaga, maybe still drained of his excitement 93-90 overtime win over UCLA Saturday looked flat from the start. The Bulldogs reduced their deficit to single digits shortly after intermission, but Baylor never panicked and kept a comfortable lead.
Bulldogs coach Mark Few refused to let Monday night’s loss tarnish a remarkable 2020-21 season.
“You can’t go to 31-0 and get to the last night and get beat up and feel bad about it,” Few said. “It was just an amazing race that we did.”
The coach said he told his players to keep the chin up, as they return to Spokane with their first loss of the season.
“I just said it will pass,” few said. “We have to give Baylor a ton of credit. But just remember what an amazing, amazing year, what an amazing achievement, even to get to this point.”
The capture of college basketball’s best trophy capped Drew’s 18th season of the Baylor run, which started at the lowest point a program could have hit.
Drew took over a basketball team in Waco, TX, mired in scandal after the 2003 murder The standout bears Patrick Dennehy in the hands of teammate Carlton Dotson. In the days following Denney’s murder, Dave Bliss, then Baylor coach urged the victim’s teammates to pass him off as a drug dealer in hopes of covering up the bribes Bliss had made to the player.
Drew, the son of highly regarded University of Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, was hit with hardwood victories while avoiding trouble. The former was no easy task, and Drew’s Bears had lost seasons in his first four years, going from 36 to 69 during that time.
The Bears haven’t had a losing season since and have held their ground playing in the same league with perennial Kansas and high-earner Texas.
Monday’s championship game brought the curtain down on the most unusual edition of March Madness in sports history.
The popular tournament was canceled last year, as one of America’s first major cultural events to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hoping to control the spread of the virus this year, the limited NCAA team are traveling by hosting the entire tournament in or near Indianapolis.
Last season’s unusual travel constraints forced players and coaches to spend excessive time together.
“If you’re going to be in a bubble for three, four weeks, you better be with the people you love,” Drew said moments before cutting the nets late Monday night. “They are amazing people, great basketball players, (but) better people.
The Division I women’s tournament was held in San Antonio while the men’s secondary competition, the National Invitational Tournament, took place just outside of Dallas.
Stanford won the women’s tournament on Sunday night, Arizona’s boardroom rival, 54-53.
Memphis captured the NIT with a 77-64 victory Mississippi state a week ago Sunday.
The competitions did not go without incident.
Virginia Commonwealth University had to be pulled from a men’s first-round match due to Covid-19 protocols. The withdrawal of the 10th-ranked Rams meant Oregon was advanced and the game was declared without competition.