Scott Drew, Baylor roll UC-Santa Barbara 74-56 in NCAA Tournament opener

Scott Drew isn’t in the same realm as Coach K, Jim Boeheim or Roy Williams, coaching legends all. But it appears he’s on his way.

His third-seeded Bears rolled to a 74-56 win over No. 14 UC-Santa Barbara on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at Ball Arena. But Drew, whose younger brother Bryce is the Grand Canyon coach and father, Homer, the longtime coach at Valparaiso, isn’t one for reflecting during the tournament. He believes his Bears, who won the program’s first national title two years ago, are primed for another deep run.

“There’s really no reflecting, especially in the middle of this tournament, because once you start to reflect, you’re done,” Scott Drew said. “One thing that did hit home to me was when it was pointed out that it’s the 25th anniversary of my brother’s (famous March Madness) shot. I thought about it, that none of our guys were born at that point. I felt old at that point, but that’s the only reflecting I’ve done here.”

Scott Drew was an assistant on that 1998 Valpo team that was seeded No. 13 and upset No. 4 Ole Miss on Bryce’s buzzer-buzzing three. Five years later, Drew took the head coaching job at Baylor, where he rebuilt the Bears from a downtrodden program into a perennial tournament powerhouse.

He has a program-record 419 regular-season wins and has led Baylor to 10 NCAA Tournament appearances over the past 15 years, including five Sweet 16 berths and a national championship. And it was Drew’s message at halftime on Friday that resonated with his experienced core, uncorking the Bears’ blowout in the second half.

“(He) pointed out our three keys — defensive percentage, rebounding and turnovers,” senior guard Adam Flagler said. “If we can get at least one of them (going our way) we have the opportunity to win. The first half we weren’t doing that at a high level. We wanted to come back the second half and show that. So he really came in (the locker room) and provided the energy we needed.”

The Gauchos went blow-for-blow with the Bears in the first half, carrying a one-point lead into the locker room. UCSB’s bigs, Andre Kelly, Evans Kipruto and Miles Norris, outplayed Baylor’s trio of big men in Flo Thamba, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Josh Ojianwuna.

Every time Baylor started to pull away, UCSB shot itself right back into the game, finishing the half at a 61.5% clip from the field. But the Gauchos shot just 30.4% in the second half as Baylor asserted itself down the stretch.

“Offensively we were stagnant (in the second half), and didn’t have enough movement to attack their pressure,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “The ball stopped moving and I had to call better plays — that’s on me.”

Flagler led all scorers with 18 points, while junior guard LJ Cryer had 15 points and junior combo forward Caleb Lohner provided a spark off the bench with 13 points on 5-of-5 from the field with a pair of free throws. Norris led UCSB with 15 points.

While the Bears get ready for their second-round game on Sunday, Drew will be consulting with his father at some point. Homer is in Denver this weekend along with the rest of the Drew family to watch Baylor and Grand Canyon.

“He’s a Hall of Fame coach and that doesn’t go away,” Drew said. “The great thing is he knows how to approach me, too — when I need encouragement, when I need to get tougher, when I need to get motivated. And I mean he’s got great advice. He says, ‘Get Adam the ball.’ (Laughs). But really, he loves our players. Loves their character. Loves how hard they compete.”

Homer Drew coached for 22 years at Valpo, with 371 career victories. That legacy spawned the coaching careers of Scott and Bryce, and the older brother took a moment Friday to state his appreciation for both the Bears and the Lopes being at the same regional site.

“Our parents are getting older,” Drew said. “It’s harder for them to travel. So it’s great that it’s at one site… and I’m proud of my brother and the program they have built there.”

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