By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - One down, three to go.
Baylor, a pre-season choice to finish third in the Big 12 standings, fell far short of that. The Bears wound up as a No. 8 seed in the Phillips 66 Men's Basketball Championship.
The only chance for Baylor to repeat last season's NCAA Tournament appearance is winning the Big 12's automatic bid. That means winning four games in four days.
"We had a team meeting and we decided that from this point on, everyone is zero and zero," said Baylor senior guard Curtis Jerrells, who had a team-high 19 points. "Our goal is just to win, win, win."
The Bears (18-13) got started Wednesday with a 65-49 victory over eighth-seeded Nebraska. Baylor had one of its best games, making 53.5 percent from the floor while limiting Nebraska to 31.5 percent shooting.
Josh Lomers, a 7-foot junior center, scored Baylor's first six points and finished with 11 points. Lomers, who scored 30 points in conference play, sprained his left ankle during Tuesday's practice and it was uncertain if he would start.
"Once he's in the paint, it's impossible to get him out of there," said senior forward Kevin Rogers, who had 18 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. "From four-feet in, it's almost a guaranteed bucket. Josh is like an immovable force."
Rogers' 20 rebounds bested Nebraska's team total of 18. Coupled with a second half where the Huskers made just 2-of-18 3-point attempts and coach Doc Sadler's team of Munchkins now have to hope the Yellow Brick Road leads to a National Invitation Tournament bid.
"We were not executing our zone offense in the second half," said Nebraska's Ade Dagundoro, who closed out his senior season by battling for a game-high 21 points. "The middle was wide open but in the second half we did a poor job of attacking the middle."
Nebraska fell behind 28-18 late in the first half when LaceDarius Dunn got free to hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Bears. Dagunduro countered by sparking a 9-0 run. His assist led to a Ryan Anderson 3-pointer and he scored three consecutive baskets, setting up one possession with a steal.
Baylor had a 30-27 halftime lead and made quick work of taking control after the break. The Bears made eight of their first 11 shots to spark a 20-7 run. For a Nebraska team that struggles to score, a 48-35 deficit with seven minutes to play was insurmountable.
"It comes down to making or missing shots," Sadler said. "You're not gonna win many games shooting 31 percent. We only took two bad shots. We took 24 threes and that's probably too many but there was only one I wish we had back."
Next up for Baylor is No. 1 seed Kansas. The Jayhawks won at Baylor, 75-65, on Feb. 2. That was one of several Big Games where the Bears came up short. But coach Scott Drew senses that his team has a different attitude that comes with a second chance.
"It's like wearing a weight vest," Drew said. "You lose a couple of games, it's 10 pounds, lose some more it weighs 20 pounds, keep losing it gets up to 40. You can't wait to get the vest off. We've got it off now and we're playing a lot
* Nebraska senior Paul Verlander, who earlier in the season was leading the nation in 3-point shooting percentage, closed out his career with a 0-for-10 shooting effort. He missed all eight of his 3-point tries. Counting the last three games, Verlander was 0-for-12 on 3-pointers.
* The Bears are 12-0 this season when shooting higher than 50 percent.
* Baylor senior Curtis Jerrells moved into fourth place on the all-time Baylor scoring list. The senior currently sits at 1,691 points, trailing Brian Skinner for third place with 1,702 points.
* Nebraska dropped to 0-4 when playing in the No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed match up at the Big 12 Championships.
* Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn entered the game shooting 14-of-58 from 3-point range in the last eight games. Against Nebraska, Dunn made 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.