Credit: Baylor Marketing and Communications
NEW YORK CITY- The news regarding Baylor, especially the last few days, has centered on the women’s team. Upset by Louisville, their shot at defending a national title is over. The Brittney Griner ‘era’ in the books. Yes, there is a lot to discuss about the women. The men, on their behalf, have been very successful under Scott Drew, continue to win in post season, and are a game from claiming a National Invitation Tournament title.
Back in 2009 they finished runners-up to Penn State in this, the nation’s oldest post season tournament. Two of the last three seasons they advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight. Following an 18-14 regular season, Baylor got the call from the NIT. They haven’t stopped winning. By virtue of a 76-70 semifinal win over BYU, the Bears are back in the championship game to face Iowa on Thursday. Among Baylor there is a determination, a quiet resolve committed to unfinished business.
“We’ve got one more,” said Pierre Jackson of Baylor following the win over BYU. “If we win Thursday I’ll probably be shaking because I’m too excited. Winning would be really big. This tournament has a lot of competition, some really great teams in it. Last time Baylor was here, we lost it, so we can really make history.”
The senior lead guard Jackson, is a major reason Baylor is in the championship. BYU coach Dave Rose wanted to win the battle of the boards against the taller Bears. Mission accomplished, as BYU owned a 40-33 rebounding edge. In a close contest with 15 ties and 10 lead changes, BYU went in a late game scoring drought. Baylor capitalized. “Give them (Baylor) credit,” Rose said. “They made the big plays in the stretch.
BYU sophomore guard Matt Carlino caught fire late. He buried four treys the last five minutes turning a 10 point deficit to a one possession game. Baylor never lost the lead. Jackson, a 24 point scorer on the night, once again came up big icing the game from the line where he shot 9 of 10 on the evening. Jackson did commit four turnovers, more than offset by 10 of the 16 Baylor assists. The stats cannot measure nor do justice to his value as he was the focal part of the offense. Not just during crunch time but through the duration of game itself.
Cory Jefferson added 21 points, 5 rebounds for the Baylor effort. The junior forward has enjoyed a strong NIT. His motivation is simple. “I just do not want to lose,” he said. “We lose a game and that ends our season. That’s what is motivating me.”
Baylor had defeated BYU in Waco 79-64 back in December. Drew conceded that BYU posed more of a problem in the NIT having improved in all facets since their meeting over three months ago. “You have to give them credit,” Drew said of BYU. “They are a team that will not give up and is used to winning.”
(Photo Credit: Baylor Marketing and Communications)
The same could be said of Baylor. Drew pointed out at the season’s end there are two happy teams, the NCAA and NIT champion.
“At Baylor,” Drew said, “we want to be one of those happy teams. We want to win a championship.” The support has been outstanding. Fans made the trip and enthusiastically cheered the Bears. “Our cheerleaders,” Drew said, “do a great job but tonight I think they stepped it up. They don’t want to leave New York,” he added.
Fans and followers will revel in another day to take in all that is New York. The Baylor Bears continue to plan and practice hoping to successfully see through their own unfinished business with an NIT championship.
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