Baylor ends Cincinnati's Big 12 Tournament run, Defeat Bearcats 68-56

Cincinnati's Big 12 Tournament run came to an end Thursday night following a 68-56 loss to the Baylor Bears.

Scott Drew's club looked well rested when it mattered and it showed as Baylor out-rebounded Cincinnati 39-27 and scored 13 points off 14 offensive rebounds.

"I thought the rebounding was the most frustrating to me because we pride ourselves on being a rebounding team," Wes Miller told media following the game.

"We get kicked on the board 39-27. Their 14 offensive rebounds were pretty significant. "

Baylor was aggressive going to the rim and made 19-of-22 free throws while also using a zone defense to limit the Bearcats to just 5-of-22 from deep.

Both Simas Lukosius and Day Day Thomas had been on a tear through the first two games of the Big 12 Tournament but Baylor limited the duo to a combined 2-of-15 from the field and 2-of-10 from three as the two scored just eight points.

"The guys, the players played really hard, competed and tried to challenge, contest as many shots," Baylor head coach coach Scott Drew told the media following the game. 

" Yves (Missi) blocked a couple, altered a couple and the guards really did a good job in not giving them too many easies, because they've been on fire from three."

Aziz Bandaogo did not play in the first match up and struggled to make his mark in this game. The 7-foot big man finished with four blocks, but just one rebound and zero points. 

RayJ Dennis led four double figure scorers for Baylor with 13 points and six assists. Jalen Bridges pulled down nine rebounds to go with 12 points, while freshman big man Yves Missi also scored 12, followed by Ja'Kobe Walter with 11 points.

Dan Skillings was the hero in the Kansas game with a game high 25 points and the talented sophomore picked up where he left off in the quarterfinal match up against the Baylor Bears.

Skillings once again led the Cats in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, followed by both John Newman and Jizzle James with 12 points, each.

Through the first four minutes against Baylor. the 6-foot-6 sophomore scored five points on a three and nice drive to the basket. Skillings would score again out of the first media timeout to extend the UC lead to 10-1.

Cincinnati was active defensively and contested everything.

That aggressiveness got Aziz Bandaogo in foul trouble as he picked up his second foul with 15:59 remaining in the first half. 

With 11:55 remaining in the first half, CIncinnati had extended their lead to 12-3, with Baylor missing their first nine attempts from the field.

"Thought that our guys came out really ready to play," Wes Miller told reporters after the game. 

"I was incredibly impressed with our defensive effort in the first half after playing three games in three days. I thought we were really, really locked in."

Jayden Nunn ended the Bears' field goal drought at the 11:31 mark to key a 9-0 Baylor run.

Jizzle James was called for a flagrant one foul during the run, which led to two free throws and a basket. 

Vik Lakhin ended a scoring drought that lasted 5:01 to put Cincinnati back in front, but Jayden Nunn answered with a three to give the Bears their first lead of the game.

At the 7:34 mark of the first half, Cincinnati trailed by one, 15-14.

Baylor missed 12 of their first 15 shots but an 8-for-10 start from the free throw line kept them in the game. 

Skillings and Newman scored on back-to-back possessions to give the Bearcats a 20-17 lead.

Baylor answered with four straight points from Josh Ojianwuna to take a 21-20 lead with 3:57 remaining in the first half. 

Cincinnati regained the lead, 24-21, following a Reynolds dunk and Newman layup off an assist from Jizzle James with 1:50 remaining in the half. 


James made a jumper from the left elbow with :34 seconds remaining in the half to send the Cats into the locker room with a 26-24 halftime lead. 

Both teams struggled from three in the first half, combining to miss 18-of-21 attempts.

Baylor shot 25 percent from the field and 10% from three in the first half but made 11-of-13 free throws to prevent Cincinnati from having a larger lead after the first 20 minutes of action. 

Baylor opened the second half with a 9-3 run and led 33-29 lead with 16:26 left on the clock.

UC missed 4-of-5 and had two turnovers during the Baylor run.

The second turnover led to a Ja'Kobe Walter wide open three to give the Bears their biggest lead of the game. 

Dan Skillings' floater in the paint cut the Baylor lead to 35-31 with 15:08 left.

 A three by Ja'Kobe Walter and five straight from RayJ Dennis extended the Bears' lead to 47-33 with 11:29 remaining. 

Baylor made eight consecutive field goal attempts and outscored the Bearcats 12-2 over 3;28 to build the 14-point lead. 

Cincinnati answered with a 10-0 run over the next 2:07 to cut the Baylor lead to four, 47-43 with 9:08 left.

John Newman capped off the run with a three from the wing.

Yves Missi's basket and free throw following a Reynolds foul ended the UC run.

Two Jizzle James free throws with 4:34 left on the clock cut Baylor's lead to 55-51 as the Bearcats were approaching desperation time.

Ja'Kobe Walter answered the James free throws with a three to extend the BU lead to seven with 3:53 remaining in the last quarterfinal of the day.

Simas Lukosius' three with 2:59 left cut the Baylor lead to six but that would be the closest Cincinnati could get as the Bearcats missed six of their final seven field goal attempts and were held without a field goal following Lukosius' three.

Baylor closed the game with timely free throws and baskets to advance to Friday night's Big 12 Conference Semi Finals against Iowa State.

"I'm proud of my team this week. They've been a resilient group all year , and they were really resilient this week and we just weren't quite good enough in the second half," Miller told media following the game. 

"The zone obviously gave us problems and we spent a lot of time preparing for that going into the tournament. We did as much as we could this morning , but we just weren't as good as we needed to be."

Final Thoughts

Anyone who watched this game saw the Bearcats struggle mightily following the big start they had at the beginning of the game. Cincinnati got 19 points off Baylor's 15 turnovers but the timing of was Cincinnati's 14 turnovers was the biggest difference. Baylor's 16 points off those turnovers came during key stretches and moments when Cincinnati needed to be better and they simply didn't execute at a level needed to know off a top 15 team.

The Bearcats will now wait and see what their fate ends up being after the conference tournaments continue to play out over the next few days. Whatever that fate is, Wes Miller knows his Cincinnati team will be ready to play.

" This is Cincinnati basketball. We play postseason basketball. We're going to be ready to play. This group is going to be ready to compete. We've got to get home, get rested. It's been a long three days. This group will be ready to compete wherever we are playing.

If it's up to Wes Miller, his team will be in the NCAA Tournament field.

" I think I have an NCAA Tournament team. After coaching in this league, I don't know how this league doesn't get a massive amount of bids. There is just nothing like this in college basketball right now. 

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