NEW ORLEANS -- LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor’s sharpshooting junior guard, said the beauty of the Bears’ team is that anybody can beat you on any given night.
But Josh Lomers?
Even the 7-foot, 280-pound Lomers describes himself as a “big goofy white guy.”
Or as somebody put it in the postgame press conference, “the big clumsy guy that sets screens.”
That may be, but Lomers was dominant Saturday in the second half and the chief reason No. 3 seed Baylor was finally able to shake Old Dominion for a 76-68 victory at New Orleans Arena, sending the Bears to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
They were national runners-up in 1948 and lost in the national championship game to Kentucky, but that’s when the NCAA tournament had just eight teams.
Lomers, surrounded by reporters in the locker room afterward, admitted he wasn’t a big talker. He also downplayed his contribution.
His 14 points matched a career high, and six of his eight rebounds came in the second half. He also had four steals and three blocks and kept the ball alive on the offensive glass several times, leading to key second-chance points for the Bears.
Keep in mind that this is the same guy who took one shot in 14 minutes against Sam Houston State in the first round and had scored in double figures only three times in his last 18 games entering Saturday’s contest.
“It’s great to win. I don’t know that contributing really matters to me,” shrugged Lomers, a three-time Academic All-Big 12 first-team selection. “I’d rather have a bad game and win rather than a good game and lose. The ‘W’ is what counts.
“But it definitely feels good that this is not the last time I’m going to put on this jersey.”
Dunn, who led the Bears with 26 points, said Lomers was being modest. He said there was a stretch there in the second half after Old Dominion surged ahead by two points with 6:29 to play where Lomers put the Bears on his wide shoulders and carried them.
“He woke up with something different on his mind today,” Dunn said. “He didn’t want this to be his last game in a Baylor jersey, and I hope he brings that same game next week.
“He came out and played his butt off.”
Lomers picked a good time to have the game of his career, too, because junior forward Ekpe Udoh hit just 2-of-7 shots and was held to eight points and four rebounds.
The Monarchs, an excellent rebounding team and equally good on the defensive end, had to be wondering where Lomers came from.
Something says he wasn’t at the top of their scouting report.
“I mean, he’s 7-foot. You can’t teach that,” Old Dominion junior forward Frank Hassell said. “He was pretty heavy. I was trying to box him out and push him out, but I guess I didn’t get low enough.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew has seen Lomars assert himself like that in practice.
“And he’s had them in different spurts of the game in games,” Drew said. “He just hasn’t had them on as big a stage as today.”
Lomers, who was 6-of-7 from the field, said he’ll gladly be there for his team in whatever role the Bears need him the rest of this tournament. If that means setting screens and clogging up traffic in the lane, so be it.
You know, the stuff the big goofy guys do.
“We have so many weapons and such a unity on this team that we’re not worried about one person stepping up,” Lomers said. “We’re worried about the team stepping up.”