Baylor awakes to roll past New Mexico State
TULSA, Okla. -- The Baylor Bears made it clear in the second half that they weren't going home early this time.
The third-seeded Bears dominated the final 20 minutes against 14th-seeded New Mexico State in the East Regional matchup and claimed a 91-73 victory over the Aggies in the first game of the day Friday at the BOK Center.
After first-round exits against 14th-seeded Georgia State and 12th-seeded Yale the last two seasons, Baylor (26-7) responded to a two-point deficit at halftime versus New Mexico State by winning the second half, 53-33.
Guard Al Freeman led Baylor with 21 points, reserve forward Terry Maston added 19 and nine rebounds, forward Jo Lual-Acuil had 16 and forward Johnathan Motley finished with 15 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds.
Guard Braxton Huggins and guard Ian Baker each scored 19 to lead New Mexico State and forward Eli Chuha added 11.
The Bears switched to man-to-man defense to start the second half and it worked to hold NewMexico State (28-6) to five points through the first six minutes after the break.
In that time, Baylor took control of the game with a 16-5 run and went ahead by nine went Maston completed a three-point play with 14:16 left.
Baylor and New Mexico State traded early punches as the Aggies grabbed an 11-3 lead and the Bears immediately responded with an 11-0 run.
Motley made a layup to cap Baylor's surge that took away New Mexico State's initial momentum.
But the Aggies stayed close and retook the lead at 26-24 when forward Johnathon Wilkins hit a 3-pointer with 4:18 left before halftime.
New Mexico State hit 6 of 14 3-point attempts in the first half and took a 40-38 lead to halftime when Huggins hit a trey with two seconds left before the break.
Freeman led Baylor's 55-percent shooting effort in the first half as he nailed 5 of 7 shots from the field and all three of his shots beyond the arc. Freeman led Baylor with 13 points in the first 20 minutes and Maston added 12.
Motley scored just four points in the first half after he picked up his second foul with 9:38 to go before the break and sat until the second half.
New Mexico State shot 50 percent in the first half despite Baylor blocking six shots.
Chuha led the Aggies with 10 points in the first half.
NOTES: Baylor holds a 6-5 series lead against New Mexico State, including a 2-1 edge in neutral-site games. Most recently, the Bears defeated New Mexico State 85-70 on Dec. 23, 2015, in Waco, Texas. ... New Mexico State last won an NCAA Tournament game on the court in 1993 when the Aggies defeated Nebraska in the opening round. However, that victory and two more in 1992 were vacated because of NCAA infractions.