Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The 1976 Indiana Hoosiers can rest easier tonight. Thanks to a wire-to-wire dominating performance by the Baylor Bears in a 86-70 win over the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs, the home-state Hoosiers remain the only undefeated men’s basketball team in the modern era.

Baylor, who opened the game on a 9-1 run, came out of the gates flying in hitting their first four out of five shots to jump out to an early 11-1 lead, four minutes into the game. From there, things quickly went downhill for the heavily-favored Bulldogs whom were burdened with the challenge of completing a perfect season and recovering from an emotional 93-90 win over UCLA.


Sadly, Zags never recovered. And it showed.

From getting out-rebounded 38-22–including 16-6 on the offensive boards–committing a season-high 14 turnovers to missing normally routine free throws, the Bulldogs were just manhandled, and beaten up by a clearly superior team playing with an edge and a underdog’s hunger. In what may be a future blueprint for all college teams to follow, Baylor’s three-guard lineup of Jared Butler (22 points), Davion Mitchell (15 points) and Macio Teague (19 points) combined for 56 of the Bears 86 total points.

In addition to their quickness and scoring abilities, Zags had no answer for Bears’ Congoian forward Flo Thamba, who grabbed six rebounds in 16 minutes and guard Mark Vital who added another 11 in 27 minutes.

Gonzaga was just simply overwhelmed by Baylor’s defensive trapping pressure, second-chance opportunities and their prolific guards–including Adam Flager (13 points)–shooting 45 percent from long-range. A team that many felt had a chance to win it all last year before COVID-19, Baylor brought back every player for this season. And it was worth it.

A private Baptist research school with an enrollment of 14,000 tucked away in Waco, and like many other schools in the Lone Star State not named Texas, Baylor has often been looked down upon as a second-tier school in a football-mad state overshadowed by the burnt orange-colored 800-pound gorilla from Austin. In winning the school’s first national title, Baylor became the second Texas school to win a title, and the first since the famed racially-integrated Texas Western coached by Hall of Famer Don Haskins—now UTEP–did so in 1966, who upset the late Adolf Rupp-coached Pat Riley-led Kentucky Wildcats.

While no longer perfect, Zags arguably was one of college basketball’s most exciting teams in a long time. Just that on this night in Indianapolis, like so many others before, their hopes of perfection were dashed by a hungrier underdog from Texas.

 

 

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