CONWAY, S.C., November 24, 2019 – Sunday’s championship game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational between No 24 Baylor and 17th-ranked Villanova was so good, it even impressed the players.
“That was really high-level basketball,” said Baylor guard Jared Butler, who scored 22 points to help lead the Bears to a closer-than-it-sounds 87-78 victory. “I was even shocked. There was a (timeout) where I thought, ‘This is really good basketball. This is right where I want to be.’ ”
Indeed, for anybody who enjoys up-tempo hoops filled with numerous momentum swings, then the HTC Center was definitely the place to be. There were 18 lead changes and nine ties, and for most of the game neither team led by more than four points.
“How many big plays were there,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And there weren’t that many bad plays by either team.”
Villanova (4-2) led 66-64 with six minutes to play. Then the Bears (5-1) finally managed to gain some separation with an 8-1 run in a two-minute span to give them the lead for good.
“Credit goes to Baylor. They were really tough,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose teams had won six consecutive November tournaments. “Their guards were outstanding. It wasn’t just the way they shot the ball. They made great decisions, read our defenses and made adjustments. And then defensively they really guarded us and got up into us. I don’t think we were that bad. They were just really good, especially at the end.”
Villanova guard Collin Gillespie poured in a game-high 27 points, and as a team the Wildcats sank 52 percent of their shots. But Baylor was even better, going 11-of-19 from 3-point range and shooting 52.5 percent from the field overall.
“They just made a couple more plays that we did down the stretch,” Gillespie said. “Their guards hit tough shots, and then we weren’t really able to get into anything for a few possessions. They just did a good job pressuring us and taking us out of what we wanted to do.”
Perhaps the most impressive stat in a game played at such a frenetic pace was that the Bears committed only five turnovers.
“In the third game of a tournament, to have only five turnovers against a quality opponent like Villanova is really a tribute to how locked in our guys were,” Drew said.
And in the end, according to Baylor forward Tristan Clark, that focus was what enabled the Bears to prevail.
“Playing a team like Villanova, we knew we had to bring our A game,” Clark said. “It was amazing. The shots were falling, we were playing good defense, and we were hyped. That energy brought us a win.”