Summer 2024

Matthew Mayer scores career-high while playing for Jesus as Baylor begins title defense

The Baylor men’s basketball national title defense got underway Thursday afternoon with a convincing 85-49 win over No. 16 seed Norfolk State.

Leading the way for the Bears was senior forward Matthew Mayer, who scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Half of his made field goals came from behind the 3-point line.

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It marked the sixth time Mayer reached double figures in his last nine games. His previous career high was a 20-point performance in a 77-68 win at West Virginia on Jan. 18.

After the game, he was asked if this was the best he’s played in a Baylor uniform.

“I think I’ve had some pretty good games, but I think that was a pretty good one,” Mayer said. “I mean, this one was a lot easier, I would say, because they were playing in a zone and my teammates were just whipping the ball around and finding me, so I didn’t really feel like I had to do too much.”

The Austin, Texas, native played a key role off the bench for the Bears last season, scoring 8.1 points in 15.7 minutes of playing time per game. His play garnered the attention of NBA scouts, but Mayer opted to return for another near and take on more responsibility.

He stepped into the starting lineup and was averaging 9.4 points while pulling down 5.0 rebounds per game heading into the NCAA Tournament.

These are the types of games Mayer expected to play in when he chose to attend Baylor four years ago. But it was also the faith-driven culture of the Baylor program that attracted Mayer โ€” whose Twitter bio reads, “in Jesus name I play.” His interactions with players and coaches made him even more sure it was where he was supposed to be.

“When I had a bad game, [Baylor’s coaches] were the first people to text me and say, like, ‘It’s all right. Just keep doing your thing,'” Mayer said in an interview shortly after arriving on campus in 2018. “Also, just the faith-based community around here, I thought that was really cool.”

Despite losing four starters from last year’s championship team and batting a series of injuries throughout the season, Baylor was able to capture a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and earn a No. 1 seed for a second straight tournament. Mayer’s experience was crucial to the Bears posting a 26-5 regular-season record and spending time as the No. 1 team in the AP poll for the third season in a row.

Though his senior year has featured both ups and downs, Mayer relies on his faith to keep him level-headed and focused on the future rather than the past.

“Honestly, my relationship with God just keeps me grounded,” he said in the 2018 interview. “That’s where I find my confidence. I’ll have a bad game or a bad practice, I won’t let that affect me because I just go right to God with everything that’s going wrong.”

With veteran big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua done for the year with a knee injury, Mayer will be called upon to play an even bigger role if the Bears are to make another deep run in the tournament.

Up next is a meeting with eighth-seeded North Carolina on Saturday. A win would mean a sixth trip to the Sweet 16 in head coach Scott Drew’s 19 seasons in Waco.

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SS PODCAST: Baylor coach Scott Drew on the national title, leading with culture of J.O.Y.