March Madness: Creighton uses scorching outside shooting to send Baylor packing early yet again

Baylor is going home early once again.

After winning the national championship in 2021, Baylor has bowed out of the NCAA men's tournament in the second round for the second consecutive season. This time around, the Bears, the No. 3 seed in the South region, just had no answers for the offensive firepower of Creighton, the No. 6 seed.

Ryan Nembhard led the way for Creighton in a 85-76 victory in Denver Sunday as the Bluejays shot a sizzling 45.8% from 3-point range. The Bluejays also went a perfect 22-of-22 from the free-throw line to help punch a second Sweet 16 berth in the last three seasons.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton’s 7-foot-1 center, dominated with 31 points in the Bluejays’ first-round win over NC State. But this game was all about the guard play.

Nembhard put up a career-high 30 points while Trey Alexander filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. In the frontcourt, Arthur Kaluma (11 points, seven rebounds) and Kalkbrenner (10 points, seven rebounds) also held their own to help Creighton jump out to a 10-point halftime lead.

Baylor was able to whittle the Creighton lead down to five (50-45 with 14:42 to play) thanks to a strong effort from LJ Cryer, but that was as close as the Bears would get. Creighton’s lead grew as large as 18 points when Nembhard drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 5:54 remaining.

From there, Baylor made one more run with Cryer carrying much of the load. Cryer had a career-high 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting, but he didn’t get much help from his teammates. Adam Flagler and Keyonte George, BU’s two leading scorers, combined for 22 points on 7-of-24 from the field and 0-of-7 from 3.

In all, Baylor connected on just five of its 22 3-point shots but the defensive effort was more of the issue in the loss.

With the loss, Baylor became the first No. 3 seed to exit the tournament and ended up closing out the season by losing five of its final eight games.

Creighton, meanwhile, is hitting its stride at the optimal time. The Bluejays were a preseason top-10 team after nearly upsetting Kansas in the second round last year. However, they endured an ugly 6-6 start to the season and did not look like a team capable of living up to the offseason hype — until things flipped during Big East play. The Bluejays ended up winning 11 of their final 14 regular season games to earn a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.

And after the Round 1 win over NC State, the Bluejays played one of their best offensive games of the season on Sunday vs. Baylor. Next, Creighton will face No. 15 seed Princeton in the Sweet 16.

The Tigers, champions of the Ivy League, have been one of the biggest stories of the tournament. They shocked No. 2 seed Arizona in the first round before beating No. 7 Missouri by 15 points in the round of 32.

Will Creighton be able to put a stop to Princeton’s Cinderella story?