NEW YORK — The Baylor Bears men’s basketball team has made it a habit of coming away with championships in the first month of seasons under head coach Scott Drew. On at least one of those occasions, a national championship followed at the very end of the season, and Drew hopes that the habit of winning tournament-style events will eventually lead his team to Phoenix come April 2024.
Toledo transfer RayJ Davis scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half in helping to lead No. 13 Baylor to a 95-91 victory over Florida in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off inside of the Barclays Center on Friday evening. Jalen Bridges scored 23 points for the Bears, including making five of his seven three-point attempts, as Baylor, who defeated Oregon State 88-72 in the semifinals on Wednesday night, has scored at least 88 points in five of its first six games this season.
In the third-place game, Pittsburgh routed Oregon State 76-51, as the Panthers held the Beavers to 32.7 shooting and 2-for-21 from three-point range.
The Bears have now won their seventh regular-season tournament title under 21-year coach Scott Drew, and their fifth since 2016. One of those titles came in the 2020-21 season in Las Vegas, a season that ended in Indianapolis and with the Bears winning the national championship.
“Most teams that did well in these preseason tournaments, usually, it bodes well for postseason, because you’ve got to have something to you to win tournaments like this,” Drew said.
Baylor and Florida played to a standstill for the first 30 minutes, with the score tied at 41 at the half and tied at the midway point of the second half after two free throws by the Gators’ Walter Clayton Jr. On the ensuing possession, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, the Bears fifth-year reserve center, knocked home a three to give Baylor the lead for good at 64-61. It was the 13th career three-pointer for Tchamwa Tchatchoua, but it was also one of the 14 long balls Baylor made as the Bears shot 56 percent from deep (14-for-25) to keep Florida at bay.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday evening’s contests, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Danny Suriel. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 47 pictures in total.