WACO, Texas – Baylor flexed its defensive muscles for most of the contest versus the Oregon Ducks. Then, when Oregon started to find its offensive rhythm late, the Bears threw a knockout punch.
Guard Makai Mason hit a jumper and drove for a basket, and guard Jared Butler finished off a nifty layup to propel Baylor’s clinching 10-2 run to claim a 57-47 victory on Friday night at the Ferrell Center.
Mason scored 14 points to lead three Bears in double figures. Tristan Clark added 13 points and seven rebounds.
Baylor got a scare with 6:40 left in the second half when Mark Vital went up for an offensive rebound and was undercut, causing him to fall hard to the floor on his back.
Vital was able to exit the floor on his own strength, though he was walking slowly and gingerly. Vital had 11 points and 8 rebounds when he left the game.
Baylor coach Scott Drew said Vital was asking to re-enter the game late, but the Bears coaches held him out as a precautionary measure. Vital has a contusion on his lower back.
The Bears (7-4) led 45-35 when Mason hit a 3-pointer with 7:55 left. But Oregon answered with a 10-2 run.
The Ducks sliced Baylor’s lead to two points when guard Payton Pritchard nailed a 3-pointer from the left side at the 3:32 mark..
That set up the Bears’ game-ending run to seal it.
“You’re not going to hold a good team down all game,” Drew said. “The good thing for us is we got better at handling a team making a run.”
Baylor kept the Ducks (8-4) to their lowest scoring output since 2013. The Bears threatened to hold Oregon to single-digits scoring in the first half as the Ducks were sitting on 5 points with 4:53 remaining before the break.
But Oregon guard Victor Bailey got hot, nailing a 3-poitner and a jumper from the free-throw line on back-to-back possessions. That sparked the Ducks’ 9-3 run that cut Baylor’s lead to 23-14.
Mason hit a 3-pointer from the left side of the key to boost the Bears lead back to double digits and Baylor went to the break with a 12-point edge.
Oregon made 1 of its first 15 shots as the Baylor zone stifled the Ducks. Bailey’s baskets loosened up the Ducks shooters as they finished the half having hit 29-percent.
Baylor has played 3 games in the last 7 days, defeating Arizona 58-49, losing to Stephen F. Austin, 59-58, and now a 57-47 victory over Oregon.
The Bears are looking like a defense-dependent team heading into Big 12 conference play in January.
“I think that’s going to be key for us,” Mason said. “We know when we get to Big 12 games, it’s going to be a grind every game. So it comes down to execution and being able to lock up on defense.”