INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Latest from the Final Four (all times EDT):
Fans are showing up in team colors, parking attendants are waving signs encouraging drivers to turn in and there are lines at souvenir shops.
Inside, it hasn’t been anywhere close to normal at the Final Four.
Only a few thousand watched the first national semifinal between Baylor and Houston instead of the usual tens of thousands. And with the Bears taking control early and still holding a 20-point lead early in the second half, they’ve been mostly quiet.
The seats closest to the court are filled primarily with cardboard cutouts behind the baselines and a large sign over the sideline that the read “The Big Dance.” Instead of the traditional pep bands playing through timeouts, songs echo off the metal and concrete stadium.
Jared Butler is more than halfway toward a career high with 17 points, just about everyone else wearing a Baylor uniform has found nothing but the bottom of the net, and the Bears lead Houston 45-20 at halftime of their national semifinal.
Butler is 6 of 8 from the field, hitting four 3-pointers, to give the Big 12 champions a big cushion in their first Final Four appearance since 1950. Butler had 11 points during a 16-3 run late in the half that cracked open the game.
The Bears are 8 of 15 from beyond the arc and shooting 57% overall against the nation’s second-best scoring defense.
Marcus Sasser is doing his best to keep Houston in the game, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 17 himself. But the rest of the Cougars are 1 of 15 from the field.
That includes All-American guard Quentin Grimes (0-5) and DeJon Jarreau (1-7), the most valuable player of the Cougars’ tournament region.
So far, Marcus Sasser is carrying the Houston offense. And the defense is struggling to slow Baylor.
The sophomore guard has 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting, with each made shot coming from behind the arc. But the rest of the team has started 1 for 11 and has just two points.
Sasser had struggled in the past three tournament games with his shot, making 11 of 43 attempts and 7 of 27 3-pointers.
More alarmingly, Houston’s defense that had held every tournament opponent to 61 points or less allowed Baylor to shoot 58% and make 6 of 12 3-pointers. The Bears led 33-17 near the 5-minute mark of the first half.
The first NCAA Tournament semifinal has tipped off in Indianapolis between two Texas teams that have Indiana connections.
Baylor coach Scott Drew graduated from Butler and coached at Valparaiso. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson spent two seasons as coach of the Indiana Hoosiers.
It’s only the third time that two teams from the same state have squared off in the Final Four, the last being Louisville and Kentucky in 2012.
The top-seeded Bears have reached the Final Four for the first time since 1950. The Cougars, the Midwest Region champs, have reached the national semis for the first time since 1984.
Students from six Indiana schools sang the national anthem before the tip.