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Baylor avoids upset against UC Santa Barbara with big second half

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Caleb Lohner scored a season-best 13 points in just 18 minutes, and No. 3 seed Baylor beat UC Santa Barbara 74-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Adam Flagler led the Bears with 18 points, and LJ Cryer scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half.

Baylor (23-10) overcame a one-point halftime deficit to advance to play the Creighton-North Carolina State winner on Sunday in the South Region.

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Caleb Lohner, #33 of the Baylor Bears, reacts after a three-point basket during the second half against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023, in Denver, Colorado.

Caleb Lohner, #33 of the Baylor Bears, reacts after a three-point basket during the second half against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023, in Denver, Colorado. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Lohner’s only other double-digit performance since transferring from BYU to Baylor for this season came back in November when he scored 11 against Virginia.

The Gauchos (27-8) looked like easy pickings for the Bears in the opening minutes before they used a 13-1 run to take a 26-22 lead.

The Gauchos led the Mountain West Conference with a .493 shooting percentage, and that sharpshooting carried over to Ball Arena, where they shot 61.5% in the first half to take a 36-35 lead into the locker room.

Baylor forward Jalen Bridges, front, drives past UC Santa Barbara forward Evans Kipruto in the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 17, 2023, in Denver. 

Baylor forward Jalen Bridges, front, drives past UC Santa Barbara forward Evans Kipruto in the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the men’s NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 17, 2023, in Denver.  ((AP Photo/David Zalubowski))

That all went away after halftime, however. The Gauchos were held to 30.4% shooting in the second half, and the Bears pulled away.

Miles Norris led the Gauchos with 15 points. Ajay Mitchell added 13.

BIG PICTURE

UC Santa Barbara: The Gauchos are a program on the rise. They won their second Big West championship in three seasons. They are 132-53 since 2017-18.

Baylor: The Bears have a long history of March Madness maladies, but they avoided the same fate as their 2014-15 squad that lost as a third seed to 14th-seeded Georgia State 57-56. The following season, they lost to 12th-seeded Yale 79-75. And last year they fell to eighth-seeded North Carolina 93-86 in overtime in the second round as a No. 1 seed.

LJ Cryer, #4 of the Baylor Bears, attempts a three-point basket during the second half against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023, in Denver, Colorado.

LJ Cryer, #4 of the Baylor Bears, attempts a three-point basket during the second half against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 17, 2023, in Denver, Colorado. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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The Bears, who won it all two years ago, are looking to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in the program’s history.

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