HOUSTON - LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Baylor had all the fun Friday night, ending what had been an entertaining NCAA Tournament ride for Omar Samhan and surprising Saint Mary's.
Dunn and Carter each made a three-pointer on his first shot and later combined for a highlight alley-oop dunk as Baylor rushed to a huge lead and romped, 72-49, in an NCAA Tournament South Regional semifinal.
The third-seeded Bears (28-7) led 46-17 at halftime and could begin looking ahead to Sunday, when they will play for a chance at their first Final Four since 1950.
More impressive for Baylor, it is another inspiring step in redemption nearly seven years after coach Scott Drew took over a program reeling and recovering from a murder and scandal that shook the world's largest Baptist university.
Drew had to rebuild with reduced scholarships and a roster decimated when the top three scorers were allowed to transfer.
Dunn and Carter, two top Louisiana prep players, still came to Baylor. And now they have helped the Bears become one of only eight teams still with a chance to win the national title. Dunn scored 23 points with four three-pointers and Carter added 14 points for Baylor.
"That's the reason why we came here. To be a part of something special," Carter said. "It really means a lot to me, this team, this program, for us to come through all the adversity."
Samhan, who had become a breakout star with his dominating play and his one-liners when talking or tweeting, finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Gaels (28-6). At halftime he had only three points and had shot 1-for-8 from the floor. With Samhan held in check, the tiny school from Moraga, Calif., that beat Villanova and Richmond earlier in the tournament was headed home.
"When it was all said and done, I was proud of what we did this year," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "I told them that we stunk tonight . . . Nobody wanted it to go that way, but it went that way."
During the interview sessions the day before the game, Samhan stopped and waved to everyone when he stepped onto the stage. There was an often-comedic interaction with two of his teammates during the 15-minute session, and the 6-11 center made sure the television cameras were aimed at him at one point before professing his love to singer Taylor Swift.
But after their lowest-scoring half of the season, things never got better for the Gaels. Their deficit increased to 35 within the first couple of minutes after halftime.
Samhan was still playing hard and talking, however. With about 61/2 minutes left, an official had to pull Samhan and Baylor center Josh Lomers together for a quick talk after they had been jawing at each other. On the next possession, Samhan saved the ball for Saint Mary's by swiping it back off Lomers' face. Lomers turned away smiling. There were plenty of reasons for that reaction, considering the score.