SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip each scored 17 points and Baylor shut down Creighton’s Doug McDermott with suffocating defense, ending the career of one of college basketball’s most prolific scorers with an 85-55 win Sunday night in the NCAA tournament West Regional.
Baylor’s size and speed overwhelmed the third-seeded Bluejays (27-8) and their national scoring leader, earning a third trip to the Sweet 16 since 2010.
McDermott, who averaged 27 points this season, finished with 15 but had just three in the first half as Baylor built a 20-point lead. McDermott ranks fifth on the NCAA career scoring list.
Sixth-seeded Baylor (26-11) had five players score in double figures and shot 64 percent in one of the dominant performances of the NCAA tournament.
The rest of the West bracket may want to pay attention to this one. A team that looked like a wreck in January with a 2-8 start in the Big 12 is now heading to Anaheim, Calif., brimming with confidence to match all the muscle in the lineup.
In Baylor’s two previous trips to the Sweet 16, it fell one game short of the Final Four.
McDermott, who carried the Bluejays back to the round of 32 for the third year in a row, had done it in spectacular style, leading the nation in scoring with a sublime shooting touch and uncanny knack to slither his way through defenders for layups and putback baskets.
McDermott spurned the chance to turn pro after last season, and this was the year the Bluejays and their senior-laden lineup were expected to drive Creighton farther into the NCAA tournament than any Bluejays team before them.
But Baylor’s defense gave him nothing: neither space to shoot nor even chances for his teammates to pass him the ball.
And for all the talk about Creighton’s maturity and bonding among longtime teammates, Baylor made the Bluejays look small and slow.
Baylor came out blazing from long range, knocking down five 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes. Kenny Chery made three and when Heslip, who was 0 for 6 in Friday’s win over Nebraska, swished his first against Creighton, he mockingly shook the fingers on both hands as he loped back down the court.
McDermott, meanwhile, struggled to find any kind of space inside or out against Baylor’s zone defense and badly misfired on his first attempt, a baseline shot that missed everything.
This rout was just beginning.
The Bears flexed their muscle early and often with a lineup built for the rigors of the Big 12. Austin is 7-foot-1 and he teamed with 6-10 forward Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt. When Creighton missed a shot, the typical result was three Bears under the basket with no Bluejays around.
Baylor’s bench was just as intimidating.
When reserve forward Rico Gathers pushed his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame through the lane for a layup, two Creighton defenders were powerless to stop him. By the time Baylor had built a 20-point halftime lead, McDermott had taken only three shots, made one and had two fouls.
Even when Creighton got a spark – Ethan Wragge made two 3-pointers early in the second half – Baylor simply matched basket for basket, denying any hopes of a rally.
Soon it was showtime as Baylor’s lead kept growing. Jefferson slammed down an alley-oop dunk as Baylor took a 58-34 with just more than 12 minutes to play. Gathers added another rim-rattler a few minutes later, his broad shoulders soaring to the basket to punctuate the night.
When McDermott left the game with 2:31 to play, he hugged his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, before retreating to the bench and burying his face in a towel.