NEW ORLEANS -- Baylor is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history and had to earn it.
A scrappy Old Dominion team fought the No. 3 seed Bears every step of the way, even after falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first half, but Baylor used its inside muscle to pull away in the final minutes for a 76-68 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament at New Orleans Arena.
The Bears (27-7) will face St. Mary’s on Friday in Houston in the South Regional semifinals.
Had it not been for 7-foot senior center Josh Lomers, they might be watching at home.
Lomers dominated the interior in the second half, scoring 12 of his 14 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds, collected four steals and blocked three shots. Six of his rebounds were on the offensive glass, as he kept giving the Bears second chances after keeping the ball alive. He matched his career high in points before fouling out with 1:05 to play.
By that time, the Bears already had the game in hand. Even though this will be their first Sweet 16 trip, they were national runners-up in 1948 when they lost to Kentucky in the championship game. The NCAA tournament included just eight teams back then.
The Bears shot 51.9 percent from the field, and when things got tight down the stretch, they took the ball inside every time.
After the Monarchs (27-9) went ahead 58-56 with 6:29 to play on Gerald Lee’s three-point play, the Bears scored five of their next six field goals on layups, put-backs or drives to the basket. The only one that wasn’t inside was LaceDarius Dunn’s 3-pointer at the 3:25 mark.
Dunn led all scorers with 26 points and was 4-of-11 from 3-point range.