Three days before Saint Mary's met Baylor in the first Sweet 16 game in school history, irreverent big man Omar Samhan offered some self-deprecating humor in describing his individual match-up with NBA prospect Ekpe Udoh.
”Ekpe can jump and I can’t," Samhan said. "He’s fast and I’m not. He’s strong and I’m not."
It drew a laugh leading up to Friday's tip-off. It rings all too true now.
An NCAA tournament run that started with so much promise for Saint Mary's after upset victories over Richmond and Villanova ended with the sobering reality that the talent discrepancy between the Gaels and the nation's elite remains wide. Baylor overwhelmed shell-shocked Saint Mary's with superior length and quickness at every position, storming to a victory so one-sided that the 72-49 final score doesn't do it justice.
The score was 46-17 at halftime. Baylor guards LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter combined for 27 of their 37 points in the first half. A Saint Mary's team that insisted before the game it had plenty of practice against a 2-3 zone looked completely befuddled against Baylor's version, Samhan missing seven of his eight first-half shots and the Gaels' typically sweet-shooting backcourt going 2 of 12 from behind the 3-point line.
Whereas Samhan had emerged as the face of the NCAA tournament and a potential NBA prospect in scoring a combined 61 points against undersized Villanova and Richmond, the quotable senior was silenced Friday by the length of Baylor's front line. The Bears attacked him on offense to get him in early foul trouble in the first half and played 6-foot-10 Ekpe Udoh and 7-foot Josh Lomers behind him on defense, forcing him to repeatedly alter his shots.
It's still hard to know what to make of Baylor because the Bears were so much more athletic than Saint Mary's and still haven't beaten a team seeded higher than No. 10 in this tournament.
At least for one night, however, Baylor had the defensive intensity and inside-outside balance of a Final Four team.