Dennis, Bridges help No. 14 Baylor pull away from Cincy for 68-56 Big 12 tourney win

Fri, Mar 15, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Dennis, Bridges help No. 14 Baylor pull away from Cincy for 68-56 Big 12 tourney win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - RayJ Dennis shook off a tough start to score 13 points, Jalen Bridges had 12 points and eight rebounds, and No. 14 Baylor pulled away in the second half for a 68-56 victory over Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday night.

Yves Missi added 12 points and Ja'Kobe Walter had 11 for the third-seeded Bears (23-9), who advanced to their eighth semifinal under Scott Drew. They will face seventh-ranked Iowa State on Friday night as they chase their first tournament title.

Dan Skillings Jr. had 15 points for the No. 11 seed Bearcats (20-14). John Newman III and Jizzle James added 12 apiece.

The Bearcats were forced to begin their Big 12 Tournament march against West Virginia on Tuesday, a high-scoring affair in which they expended a load of energy. But they still bounced back the following night to rout No. 16 Kansas, taking advantage of a team missing All-American candidates Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr.

They were still rolling in the opening minutes against the Bears, almost as if they caught them by surprise. Skillings picked up where he left off with his 25-point performance against the Jayhawks, and Cincinnati built an early lead.

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Baylor eventually calmed down and drew within 26-24 by halftime of the low-scoring slugfest.

Tired legs - and perhaps tired minds - finally seemed to show up for the Bearcats in the second half.

When they weren't turning the ball over with sloppy passes and slippery fingers, they were hoisting up shots that continually came up short. Cincinnati looked a step slow on defense, too, where Dennis shook off a 0-for-7 first half from the field by hitting a series of floaters before draining a 3-pointer that gave Baylor a 47-33 lead with 11 1/2 minutes to go.

The Bearcats managed to put together a 10-0 run to get back in contention but could never regain the lead.

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Cincinnati has not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019, when Mick Cronin was still the coach. The Bearcats will find out Sunday whether they made it or will be playing in the NIT for the second straight year.

Baylor beat the Cyclones in their only meeting earlier this season, when Jayden Dunn scored with 2 seconds left for a 70-68 victory in Waco, Texas. The game is probably best remembered for the first ejection of Bears coach Scott Drew's career.

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