HOUSTON -- The picture shows the Baylor team huddled up at midcourt and just two words appear above the photo:
The makeshift fliers hung everywhere inside the Bears’ locker room, taped to the doors, the walls, above lockers and on lockers.
“It’s something we did as players,’’ Quincy Acy said. “We just feel like there’s something special going on here. You can feel it. I don’t know how to describe it but you can feel it.’’
You could certainly see it on Friday night. The Bears put a hurting on Saint Mary’s usually reserved for a 1-16 first-round game, a 72-49 win that, believe it or not, wasn’t even that close.
The Gaels could do absolutely nothing against the Baylor zone -- the usually high-scoring, good-shooting team hit only 6 of 22 3-pointers and shot an anemic 35 percent from the floor -- and was equally helpless to stop Baylor.
LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter looked like they were on rollerskates as they blew by the flat-footed Gaels. Dunn finished with 23 points and Carter 14, reinventing athletic ways to score with each trip down the court.
Baylor makes its first appearance in the Elite Eight against either Duke or Purdue on Sunday.
“The best part was just seeing the excitement on all of the players’ faces,’’ Scott Drew said. “All that hard work finally paying off for them.’’
No one in the Baylor locker room would bite on the idea that they were interested in quieting the ever-yapping mouth that is Omar Samhan. They just wanted to play their game, didn’t think about it -- all of the perfect clichés. But the fact remains that Samhan, stuffed and crushed by Ekpe Udoh and Josh Lomers, finished with the most inconsequential 15 points ever recorded in a basketball game. He needed 17 shots to score those 15 points and struggled to get anything by Udoh and Lomers.
“No, we didn’t even talk about that at all,’’ Lomers said with a slight smile. “Just play our game.’’
Samhan may have taken over the spotlight this week, but the Bears have long been hanging in the shadows.
Picked to finish 10th in the Big 12, even as they started to put together good wins, the Bears were overshadowed by Kansas’ success, Texas’ failures and Kansas State’s surprising turnaround.
Now the Bears will have to guard against an unfamiliar foe -- success. Baylor’s thumping of Saint Mary’s ought to come packaged with game tapes from Syracuse. The Orange dismissed the Gaels’ West Coast Conference foe, Gonzaga, with ease, playing so well it seemed effortless. With or without Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse looked like a Final Four team.
And then the Orange got squished by Butler.
Baylor players said on Thursday they were in town for a business trip. They’ll need to keep their tie and their heads straight for Sunday’s Elite Eight game.
“We’re not done yet, we know that,’’ Acy said. “We haven’t won anything yet.’’
But they are awfully close to doing something no one could have expected. Never much of a player on the national scene to begin with, the program was written off after the 2003 tragedy/scandal involving Patrick Dennehy and Dave Bliss.
Now the Bears are 40 minutes from the Final Four.
“Forty minutes from the Final Four? In a word? Fantastic! Ecstatic! I don’t know if I can do that,’’ Udoh said.
How about special?