KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Baylor got to experience the downside of earning a double-bye in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday night: a slow start when the Bears were finally able to step on the floor against Cincinnati for the quarterfinal round.

The Bearcats experienced the downside of having played in the opening round: tired legs from three games in three days.

The No. 14 Bears eventually got going in the second half, when RayJ Dennis and Jalen Bridges scored the majority of their points, and Cincinnati finally faded in the closing minutes, allowing Baylor to earn a 68-56 victory and a spot in the semifinals.

The tournament's No. 3 seed will play seventh-ranked Iowa State - the No. 2 seed - for a spot in the championship game.

“Unfortunately there's a lot of teams that want to win,” said Bears coach Scott Drew, whose team has never raised a trophy at the end of the conference tournament. “The second half is how we're going to have to play tomorrow and moving forward. We probably aren't going to survive if we play another half like we did in the first half.”

Dennis led the way for Baylor with 13 points, Bridges had 12 points and eight boards, and Yves Missi also had 12 points as the Bears (23-9) advanced to their eighth semifinal since Drew took over the program; he is 0-3 in championship games.

“We know that,” Drew said. “That's something we'd love to make happen.”

Dan Skillings Jr. had 15 points for the No. 11 seed Bearcats (20-14). John Newman III and Jizzle James added 12 apiece.

“I'm proud of my team this week,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said. “They've been a resilient team all year and they were really resilient this week, and we just weren't quite good enough in the second half. We couldn't sustain it.”

The Bearcats were forced to begin their Big 12 Tournament march against West Virginia on Tuesday, a high-scoring affair in which they expended a load of energy. But they still bounced back the following night to rout No. 16 Kansas, taking advantage of a team missing All-American candidates Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr.

They were still rolling in the opening minutes against the Bears, almost as if they caught them by surprise. Skillings picked up where he left off with his 25-point performance against the Jayhawks, and Cincinnati built an early lead.

Baylor eventually calmed down and drew within 26-24 by halftime of the low-scoring slugfest.

Tired legs - and perhaps tired minds - finally seemed to show up for the Bearcats in the second half.

When they weren't turning the ball over with sloppy passes and slippery fingers, they were hoisting up shots that continually came up short. Cincinnati looked a step slow on defense, too, where Dennis shook off a 0-for-7 first half from the field by hitting a series of floaters before draining a 3-pointer that gave Baylor a 47-33 lead with 11 1/2 minutes to go.

The Bearcats, who struggled against the Bears' zone defense in the second half, managed to put together a 10-0 run to get back in contention but could never regain the lead.

“We knew how well they've shot it. We knew what they were capable of,” Drew said. “The great thing is we have players that are really coachable, and they don't make the same mistakes multiple times, and they're at a point in the season they're coaching themselves, too, and that's a blessing.”


Cincinnati has not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019, when Mick Cronin was still the coach. The Bearcats will find out Sunday whether they made it or will be playing in the NIT for the second straight year.

Baylor beat the Cyclones in their only meeting earlier this season, when Jayden Dunn scored with 2 seconds left for a 70-68 victory in Waco, Texas. The game is probably best remembered for the first ejection of Drew's career.


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