A seven-decade drought has ended.
No. 1 Baylor relied on its nation-best backcourt and looked the part as a national title contender in fending off Arkansas 81-72 on Monday in the men's Elite Eight. The Bears earned the program's first Final Four berth since 1950.
Baylor (26-2) looked determined to put the game away from the start and built an 18-point lead. But Arkansas – the comeback team of this NCAA Tournament – wasn't fazed. The Razorbacks took advantage of three fouls on Davion Mitchell (and only nine first-half minutes) to slice the halftime deficit to eight and then cut the Bears' lead to four with 9:34 remaining off a Moses Moody lay-up.
But Baylor kept scoring witch clutch buckets in the closing minutes. The Bears gotstops all game – forcing 15 turnovers. Jared Butler, the first-team All-American guard who had struggled in previous games, found his groove with 14 points. But it was MaCio Teague (22 points) who was carving through Arkansas' defense most to inject the team with energy. Mitchell finished with 12 points, as the Bears' backcourt trio once again came through. The nation's best three-point shooting team, Baylor finished 8-for-15 (53%) from beyond the arc.
Adam Flagler celebrates with Davion Mitchell during the first half in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photo: Tim Nwachukwu, Getty Images)
JD Notae led Arkansas' offensive charge with 14 points off the bench, but he fouled out with 13:38 remaining. The Razorbacks (25-7) had reached the Elite Eight by storming back from large deficits in each of their three victories – in the first round vs. Colgate, the second round vs. Texas Tech and the Sweet 16 vs. Oral Roberts. But it wasn't happening on Monday, as leading scorer Moody finished 2-for-10 from the floor.
Baylor had an answer for everything Arkansas threw its way. The Bears' Final Four path started in 2020. Baylor was a national title favorite and lock for a No. 1 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. Virtually every player from the 2019-20 roster returned for 2020-21 – with the mission of capitalizing on a restored March Madness.
Coach Scott Drew finally punched his ticket to the Final Four, after guiding Baylor to five Sweet 16 trips and three Elite Eights.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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