NEW ORLEANS -- Sam Houston State made 18 3-pointers in a 102-92 loss at Kentucky. They made 15 in a road loss at Auburn and they averaged nearly nine a game during the season.
Against Baylor, the Bearkats made just 6-of-31 and overall shot 33.8 percent. Think that's just poor shooting on the part of the Bearkats? Partly. But, it's more the Bears' active 2-3 zone that pressures the ball-handler and collapses in the middle. Granted, Sam Houston State forward Gilberto Clavell did a nice job finding seams in the middle of the zone for short jumpers and 17 first-half points, but once the Bears talked it over at halftime, Clavell managed just six more points.
"To hold them 6-for-31, 19 percent, for a team ninth in the country in scoring, to hold them to 59 points, I think every coach in the country would be happy with that defensive performance," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Entering the first-round game, opponents were shooting just 38.2 percent from the field against the Bears and 32.7 percent from the 3-point land. The presence of 6-10 forward Ekpe Udoh in the middle of the Bears' 2-3 zone, a strategy Drew implemented full-time this season, drastically improved the Bears' defense. They ranked second in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage defense behind Kansas. They're the only two Big 12 teams to hold teams below 40 percent.
"Again, 33 percent defensive field-goal percentage is the only thing that needs to be talked about as far as why we won," Drew said.
Saturday's matchup against No. 11 Old Dominion could be another defensive-first battle. The Monarchs held Notre Dame to 35.6 percent shooting (21-of-59) and 23.1 percent from 3-point range (6-of-26) and 50 points. No word if Old Dominion employs a triangle-and-two defense.