TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Al Freeman came off the bench to score 21 points, and No. 3 seed Baylor defeated No. 14 seed New Mexico State 91-73 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA’s East Regional.
Jo Lual-Acuil scored 16 points and Johnathan Motley added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears (26-7), who were upset in the first round by Georgia State and Yale the previous two years.
Ian Baker and Braxton Huggins each scored 19 points for New Mexico State (28-6).
Huggins hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give New Mexico State a 40-38 lead at the half. The Aggies made 6 of 14 3-pointers before the break to counter Baylor’s 55 percent shooting.
Baylor took control for good with a 14-3 run early in the second half to take a 58-47 lead. Baylor held the Aggies to 37 percent shooting in the second half.
New Mexico State: The Aggies gave the Bears all they could handle for a half. The Western Athletic Conference tournament champions led early in the second half and gave Baylor’s normally stout defense fits. The Aggies had a 20-game win streak earlier in the season under first-year coach Paul Weir.
Baylor: The Bears got a much-needed win after a shaky finish to the season and re-established its defensive dominance in the second half. The Bears looked like the team that started the season 20-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation.