KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – King McClure had 19 points, Terry Maston made a series of big baskets down the stretch and No. 22 Baylor rallied to beat Creighton 65-59 on Tuesday night in the Hall of Fame Classic title game.
Maston finished with 15 points, and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had 15 points and 15 rebounds, as the Bears (5-0) won their 11th consecutive in-season tournament game. They won the Battle 4 Atlantis last season.
Lual-Acuil was voted the tournament’s most valuable player.
The Bluejays (4-1) were unable to solve Baylor’s zone defense in the second half, resorting to 3-point shots over top of it. They were 5 of 30 for the game, including 2 of 18 in the final 20 minutes.
Khyri Thomas had 15 points and Marcus Foster scored 12 for Creighton, but they were a combined 10 of 31 and 3 of 19 from the arc. Martin Krampelj contributed 11 points and Ty-Shon Alexander had 10.
The contrast in styles was about as stark as the contrast in jerseys.
The white-clad Bluejays, who have twice hit the 100-point mark in four games, tried to push the tempo whenever possible. The idea was to turn defensive rebounds into fast-break points, and that would take the 2-3 zone that Baylor coach Scott Drew employs out of the equation.
The Bears, in their highlighter yellow, tried to keep the pace under control.
It was Creighton that asserted itself in the first half, getting easy layups off misses and taking a 33-24 lead into the break. But it was the Bears who successfully muddied it up in the second, during one stretch of the second half forcing the Bluejays into nine consecutive missed shots.
It took about 7 minutes, but Baylor slowly whittled a 40-28 deficit to 43-40 with 9:30 to go.
The Bears kept plodding along, finally drawing even when McClure converted a three-point play just before the final media timeout. His next basket gave Baylor its first lead since the opening minutes, and the Bluejays were never able to go ahead again.
Tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches were among several Chiefs players with courtside seats. But the public-address announcer must not be much of a fan; he mistakenly called Nunez-Roches star linebacker Justin Houston. Nunez-Roches responded with a hearty laugh.
Baylor beat Wisconsin in the semifinals despite a sluggish finish, then topped the Bluejays after a sluggish start. Just imagine if they are able to put together a complete game.
Creighton looked lost against Baylor’s zone defense, virtually unable to score whenever it became a half-court game. The Bluejays are dynamic when the game is fast but Baylor exposed some flaws.
Baylor visits No. 15 Xavier next Tuesday night with No. 6 Wichita State on deck four days later.
Creighton plays SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday before visiting No. 17 Gonzaga next week.
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