Undefeated Baylor visited Provo Saturday in what was a much-hyped, highly anticipated game that didn’t disappoint. Baylor came in 8-0 for just the third time in school history hoping to capture a rare victory as a visitor at the Marriott Center. BYU, prior to today, was an amazing 48-1 against non-conference foes in the Dave Rose era, but Baylor was able to win the close, hard-fought battle and capture the win.
Baylor started out hot, gaining an 11-2 lead in just the first few minutes and held onto that lead while out-gaining BYU 18-17 in the games first five minutes. But the first-half belonged to BYU as they overcame a slow start and led by as much as 13 points as they put together runs of 8-0 and 9-0 and were led by a fierce Brandon Davies and consistent play of Noah Hartsock. Brandon Davies scored BYU’s first 4 points and dominated inside the paint to carry BYU through the first half. Baylor finished the half strong behind the deadly shooting of 3-point marksman Brady Heslip, who finished with 18 points off of 6 three pointers. BYU was able to hold on and finish the half with a 4-point lead.
Baylor’s highly touted front-court created a daunting task for BYU’s, but the Cougar’s held their own. BYU out-rebounded Baylor 14-0 in the games first 10 minutes, a statistic not thought possible coming into the game. Davies was making all the right decisions, staying out of foul trouble, and creating problems for Baylor’s Perry Jones III. Davies finished the game with 18 points, but more impressive was his tenacity on the glass. He outr-ebounded 6-11 Jones III 13-8.
Baylor came out much more focused in the second half and figured out how to get more production from their star-studded front-court. In the fist half, BYU ran a zone defense that kept Baylor playing outside, but coming out of the locker room their focus shifted, allowing Jones III, Quincy Miller, and Quincy Acy more touches inside.
The Cougars received a refreshing spark from the play of redshirt freshman Matt Carlino. Carlino did not disappoint in his first game of eligibility. He came out strong and was not afraid to take tough shots. With BYU fans hoping he could bring a Jimmer-like presence to the team, Carlino made a few key 3-pointers and jumpers to help BYU get back into the game after falling behind by 9 points. Baylor’s head coach notices as well, stating “We knew he was a good shooter, but we didn’t know he could make tough shots like that. If he continues to do that all year long, it gives BYU another weapon.”
With 11 seconds remaining and BYU down by 3, Carlino’s 3-point shot went left and BYU immediately fouled the rebounder. Charles Abouo grabbed the rebound off the missed free throw and sprinted down court with the ball. He passed to Brandon Davies, who was open on the perimeter, but Davies 3-point attempt was blocked by Pierre Jackson to end the game and secure the Baylor victory.
“I had no idea where he came from,” stated Davies, “I didn’t see him at all.”
Dave Rose probably should have called a time-out, especially as BYU had 2 remaining. A time-out would have allowed BYU to set up their offense and allow for a smarter shot in an attempt to tie the game.
As hard as this loss was to stomach, the future looks bright for this young Cougar squad. Matt Carlino created instant offense, and showed fans that he has Jimmer-like talent in creating his own shot and nailing long rang balls. Damarcus Harrison came off the bench and turned in strong minutes that helped BYU keep it close. And Brandon Davies was an absolute beast in the first half, turning in by far his most impressive performance of the season. BYU will be a strong presence in the WCC and definitely will be a lot of fun to watch.