On Monday, Baylor Bears star Jared Butler appeared assured in his workforce’s skill to bounce again after its three-week pause because of COVID-19 protocols, a hiatus he in comparison with being grounded by his dad and mom whereas his mates round faculty basketball had been allowed to play exterior.
“I wish to consider we will choose up the place we left off,” he mentioned. “I feel, finally, we will get again within the groove.”
Yet, the Bears by no means discovered a rhythm till the ultimate minutes of Tuesday’s 77-72 come-from-behind win over Iowa State (2-17) in Waco, Texas, on Tuesday. In a matchup between an Iowa State workforce ranked 236th within the NET in opposition to a Baylor squad, No. 2 within the NET getting into the sport, the latter struggled to regain the stride that had turned this system into an undefeated juggernaut, which many count on to fulfill undefeated Gonzaga within the nationwide title sport in Indianapolis.
However, Iowa State, 0-13 in Big 12 play getting into the sport, led by 17 factors with 6:26 to go within the first half. The sluggish begin appeared to substantiate Baylor coach Scott Drew’s issues previous to his workforce’s first sport in 21 days.
“I imply, yeah,” Drew informed ESPN, “I’m nervous.”
Baylor solely returned to full follow on Sunday and Drew in contrast the session to the sluggish practices that always comply with Christmas break. Per the workforce, COVID-19 protocols created numerous ranges of isolation and restrictions for particular person workforce members.
The pause and lack of constant lineups broke within the momentum that is made Baylor a top-five workforce within the Associated Press ballot for 25 consecutive weeks, second solely to Gonzaga (28), per ESPN Stats & Info. Three gamers, together with key reserve Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (7.8 PPG), missed Tuesday’s sport. And the workforce had solely practiced with a brand new beginning lineup that includes Matthew Mayer at middle 48 hours previous to unveiling it.
“Best manner I can type of clarify what was happening was we simply had a whole lot of guys who had been out for quite a few causes,” mentioned guard Adam Flagler, Baylor’s catalyst all through Monday’s sport and led the workforce with 22 factors (4-for-10 from the 3-point line). “We simply all weren’t collectively.”
It confirmed. At halftime, Baylor had 10 turnovers and Iowa State, a 24-point underdog, and the worst offensive workforce not named Kansas State within the Big 12 per possession, had made 52 p.c of its pictures.
But Baylor is not the one workforce that did not instantly regain its previous type after pausing their seasons. Florida completed 4-for-21 from the 3-point line in a 75-64 loss to Arkansas on Feb. 16 after practically two weeks out of motion. Michigan was down 39-27 at Wisconsin at halftime in its first sport following a three-week pause on Valentine’s Day. Texas’ loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 26, which Shaka Smart missed after testing optimistic, kicked off a three-game shedding streak for the Longhorns.
“I feel it actually confirmed a whole lot of coronary heart from our guys,” Drew mentioned within the postgame press convention on Tuesday. “I’ve talked to a whole lot of coaches who’ve had lengthy pauses. Normally, they are saying three video games till you are regular. Minimum.”
The excellent news is that Baylor performed to its pedigree down the stretch on Tuesday. Senior guard MaCio Teague made a few late buckets after breaking down defenders. Mark Vital performed nice protection. Flagler hit pictures throughout a key run within the first half after which once more after the break.
It was by no means fairly. But the NCAA event choice committee will concentrate on the consequence greater than the optics.
Baylor, in its first sport again, beat an Iowa State workforce that performed its finest basketball of the season and refused to offer Baylor room for a game-altering run. Nothing in regards to the matchup made sense: not Baylor’s early missteps, not Iowa State’s effectivity within the first half.
A Saturday highway sport at Kansas, nonetheless, ought to take a look at Baylor, although. Kansas is enjoying a number of the finest protection within the nation proper now. A Thursday matchup at West Virginia has been rescheduled for March 2. Two days later, the Bears will face Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State.
Baylor seemed rusty in opposition to the Cyclones. But video games in opposition to Kanas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State will demand a greater effort.
“It was enjoyable,” Flagler mentioned after the comeback win on Tuesday, “however we undoubtedly do not ever wish to get down like that.”