INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in 73 years, Baylor University will be playing for the NCAA men’s basketball title.
The Bears jumped out to a large first-half lead and notched its first trip to the championship game since 1948, as Baylor defeated the University of Houston 78-59 at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
Baylor (27-2), playing in the Final Four for the first time since 1950, will face top-ranked, unbeaten Gonzaga on Monday. Gonzaga beat UCLA 93-90 in overtime.
Jared Butler scored 17 points to lead five Baylor players in double figures. Matthew Mayer and Davion Mitchell had 12 apiece, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Macio Teague added 11 apiece. Mitchell had 11 assists.
Marcus Sasser scored 20 points to lead Houston. (28-4).
Baylor took the lead for good early, jumping to an 11-8 advantage with 15:49 remaining in the first half on Matthew Mayer’s 3-pointer. By halftime, Baylor had stretched its lead to 45-20.
Houston was in the Final Four for the first time since 1984, when Guy Lewis’ Cougars made three straight appearances from 1982 to 1984 during the Phi Slama Jama era. Houston lost twice in the title game, falling to North Carolina State in one of the tournament’s great upsets in 1983, and then to Georgetown in 1984.
Saturday’s loss snapped the Cougars’ 11-game winning streak.
Baylor was the No. 2 team in the nation for much of the season. The Bears opened the season with an 18-0 run. After a pause because of COVID-19 protocols and a loss to Kansas in late February, the Bears are now 9-1 and are poised to win their first national title.