WACO -- Three years ago, Baylor basketball was on the receiving end of what was then-Yale guard Makai Mason’s best ever game. Mason scored 31 points on 18 shots to lead the Bulldogs to a massive upset over the Bears.
Baylor’s staff hasn’t forgotten the unique situation of the graduate transfer guard. Bears coach Scott Drew noted that his wife brings it up more than anyone to him. After what Mason did to Baylor archrival TCU on Saturday night, it’s fair to say all should be forgiven.
Mason put together 40 points in one of the finest games in the history of Baylor basketball, and arguably the best ever by a Bear in a Big 12 conference game. His performance was critical in a dominant 90-64 win over TCU at the Ferrell Center.
“It was pretty fun,” Mason said with a smile. “I was just kind of locked in. My teammates did a great job of finding me.”
That’s putting it kindly. The senior guard scored 40 points, the most ever by a Baylor player in a Big 12 game. He also hit nine three-pointers, the most ever by a Bear in a conference game, and one shy of the program record for threes.
In the first 5:07 of the second half, Mason scored a ridiculous 16 points alone to push the Baylor lead from 11 to 20. He left the game to a standing ovation after TCU started selling out to stop him down more than 20 points.
“We knew he’d been playing well coming in,” TCU guard Desmond Bane said. “We wanted to run him off the three point line and coach was really stressing that they got threes off offensive rebounds. They killed us on that.”
Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie said he came into the game for forward Flo Thamba after Mason started his crazy run.
“I asked Flo, ‘Are we still crashing the boards or no?’” Gillespie said. “Flo said, ‘Yeah, we’ve just got to do it for film.’ People do miss shots I guess, even though he doesn’t apparently.”
Drew asked to compare his night to other great shooters in Baylor history, including Brady Heslip’s nine three-pointer game in the NCAA tournament and a plethora of games from all-time leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn. He put the performance up with any of them.
“Those are some great shooters right there,” Drew said. “The good thing is, you look at Makai and Makai gets a lot of those off the bounce. It’s a little harder to guard someone off the bounce.”
Baylor was happy to capitalize off the performance. Mason’s performance was the headliner, but the Bears obliterated the rival Horned Frogs in every area.
Baylor destroyed TCU on the boards. The Bears nabbed 15 offensive rebounds out of 31 total missed shots and free throws. Baylor also shot 55.6 percent from the field while holding the Horned Frogs to 42.1 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three. Even if you take out Mason’s outlier, the Bears still shot 48.8 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three.
Mason still gets ragged by some Baylor fans for knocking the beloved 2016 team out of the NCAA tournament. He says some people have told him that leaving a Yale team that beat Baylor for Baylor is the “reverse KD,” a reference to Kevin Durant leaving for the Golden State Warriors.
But in his final season of eligibility, Mason is doing everything he can to will Baylor into the NCAA tournament. The senior is averaging 20.1 points in Big 12 conference play. Baylor has won five straight conference games for just the fourth time in program history. Over that stretch, Mason is up to 22.0 points per game and 56.9 percent from the field.
After the win on Saturday, Baylor is tied with Kansas State for first place in the Big 12. The WIldcats play Kansas on Tuesday, while the Bears play a struggling Texas squad on
Few thought the Bears could recover after a four-loss nonconference slate. But with Mason fully healthy and the team rallying, Baylor is playing one of the most impressive stretches of the Scott Drew era.
“We knew [Mason] was a really good player, but he hadn’t been healthy to even show that,” Drew said. “As his athleticism continues to get back, you’ll only see him continue to get better.”
Baylor basketball faces off against Texas at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The game will be broadcast live on the Longhorn Network.