SAN ANTONIO – Maybe it was the day-glow yellow highlighter uniforms in a late morning tipoff.
More likely, it was Baylor's zone being Baylor's zone. The size, length, quickness and moxie of the Bears' defense has been swallowing and then constricting opponents during the team's season-saving stretch.
Thanks to a first-half that held Nebraska to its lowest 20-minute point total of the season, No. 6 seed Baylor moved to the third round of the West Regional with a 74-60 victory over the Cornhuskers Friday in the AT&T Center.
On Sunday, the Bears will face No. 3 seed Creighton, a 76-66 winner over No. 14 Louisiana Lafayette.
"In the beginning of the game our guards came out and played tremendous defense," Baylor's Isaiah Austin said. "They were contesting every shot that was put up, and it was making it hard for them to score. We were rebounding the ball and keeping them one and done off the glass."
Austin and Cory Jefferson combined for 29 points and 13 rebounds. Baylor's size and length also wreaked havoc on Nebraska's man-to-man defense. The Bears got 22 points and 11 rebounds from its reserves and they expanded their lead with three starters on the bench in the last five minutes of the first half.
Baylor won for the 11th time in 13th games thanks to a huge advantage at the free throw line. The Bears were 38-of-48 (79.2 percent) while Nebraska was 10-of-16. Baylor's 48 attempts set a school record for an NCAA Tournament game.
"Our guys wear the emotions on their sleeves and we were frustrated," said Nebraska second-year coach Tim Miles. "You need to see the ball go through the hole. But we missed shots and then we fouled way too much."
Baylor didn't exactly stick the landing. The Bears led 62-42 with five minutes remaining on Royce O'Neale's driving layup but the Bears committed turnovers on five consecutive possessions. Nebraska pulled to within 62-53 with 2:45 remaining on Shields' steal and dunk.
But the drama never developed beyond that as the Bears produced points on their next seven trips to maintain their edge.
"This time of the year it's all about surviving and advancing," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "So we're definitely pleased with the win, no matter how you get it, pretty ugly, nasty. No matter how well you play, there is always something you can work on."
Nebraska, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998, shot like it was 1928. In the first half, the Huskers made their first attempt, a driving layup by Shavon Shields. A Big Red fan yelled, "All night long." Turns out he was right; the darkness was coming. The Huskers missed 20 of their next 25 attempts.
"Baylor took us out of our rhythm, we didn't attack and settled for too many outside jumpers," said Shields, who finished with 16.
The Huskers made their first six shots of the second half, including their first 3-pointer, but Baylor's size and aggressiveness resulted in 28 second-half free throw attempts. The Bears, who shoot just 67 percent from the line, missed just four in the second half. That helped offset 40.5 percent shooting from the field.
The Cornhuskers have yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in seven appearances. The frustration of missed shots and overall futility was evident in their body language – grimaces, head shakes, hands in the air and in general tantrums worthy of a pre-school timeout.
"We can't control if the ball goes in or not," Shields said. "But we can control our attitude and what we're doing, and we kind of lost our minds a little bit. That really affected us."
The Huskers lost their coach with 11:17 remaining when Miles received his second technical foul. He got his first with 13:53 after Baylor shot two of its 48 free throws.
"I didn't want an unfair competitive advantage, I just wanted it called the same way at both ends," said Miles, whose team had three players foul out. "The second (technical), the shot clock wasn't running and I wanted to get the attention of the operator. (Karl Hess) called me for being out of the coaching box or charging him.
"I said it was a shot clock error, it's a correctable error … He said, 'It's too late, you're gone.'"