ANALYSIS: Sometimes you have to tip your cap

Kevin Lonnquist, Editor
Sic Em Sports

Beloit Daily News

The cliche analysis of Baylor's East Regional semifinal against South Carolina Friday at Madison Square Garden is that the Bears were mauled in a boxing match.

They took hay maker after hay maker after hay maker until they were beaten into submission. A 70-50 loss ending a terrific and better-than-anticipated season felt like it was a 30-point loss.

Baylor scored its fewest points in a game in 2016-17, tied for the fewest points it scored in the first half (22) and had its worst scoring output in the NCAA tournament.

This wasn't about what the Bears didn't do. This is about what South Carolina did. Sometimes, the other guy is just better than you and beats you. That's what happened in The Garden.

Tip your cap.

From Baylor's opening possession, South Carolina put on a clinic defensively. Every time Johnathan Motley caught the ball in the post, he was greeted by two defenders. The spacing was such that they weren't fouling but they blurred his vision to where he almost immediately had to kick it out.

At the arc, 3-point shooters were closed out. Baylor only made three for the night, two by Manu Lecomte and the other by Jake Lindsey.

Just about every shot the Bears put up - even those that went in and there were only 17 of those as Baylor was held o 30 percent - was contested. Baylor's guard-friendly and rhythm offense was turned into a shell of itself.

That's as good a defensive performance I think I've seen from anyone in maybe three or four years. Now, you have to have the personnel to do it. But the Gamecocks do. As they are on their historic run to their first ever Elite 8 (they play fellow SEC member Florida Sunday), they lived on making Baylor work for everything.

You could complain that Baylor wasn't doing enough screening. But when the opponent takes you completely out of what you want to do, everything gets thrown off.

I mentioned in a thread and even tweeted this that this game reminded me of the two games Baylor lost to Kansas State. Teams that are going to be physical, can body up against Motley and score just enough can give Baylor a real problem.

Baylor's last lead of the game was 15-13 at 9:58 mark. Then everything disappeared. South Carolina went on a game-clinching 18-0 run over the next 7:44. The Bears missed 11 shots in the stretch.

"That's what they game-planned for,'' Baylor forward Johnathan Motley said. "And they did a great job of executing their game plan. We couldn't, really couldn't buy a basket."

Heck, if you look at Motley's line of 18 points and nine rebounds it looks great. But he scored his last eight points in the final 3:22 when the damage had been done and Baylor's season was winding down. No one else was in double figures.

Baylor got as close at 49-38 midway through the second half. But when the Gamecocks dropped two threes to extend it out to 55-38, that was it.

But we also learned South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell was as good as advertised as he scored 24 points and the supporting cast of Chris Silva, P.J. Dozier and Duane Notice pretty much were on cue with what they do adding either 11 or 12 points. That's been their averages for the season.

South Carolina is not a very good offensive team, Sometimes, it looks like the Gamecocks are fighting themselves to get the ball to move well. But they were good Friday. They've been pretty good in the tournament. When you're still playing, you're doing some things right.

The NCAA tournament is cruel. No matter how a season ends - humbling loss or on a buzzer beater - it's always hard to take.

But for a team that was coming off a season in which it lost an NBA draft pick (Taurean Prince) and NFL free agent signing who happened to be the program's all-time rebounder (Rico Gathers), was picked fifth in the Big 12 preseason poll and didn't even receive a vote in the preseason AP or Coaches polls, you can't argue with the results.

Only one of the 68 teams in this field is going to be 6-0.

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