Pierre Jackson had 20 points with 13 assists, 7 rebounds and no turnovers in his final home game for Baylor as the Bears beat Providence Friars 79-68 in an NIT quarterfinal game.
Cory Jefferson added 26 points and Rico Gathers had 10 rebounds for the Bears (21-14), who go to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden for the 2nd time in 4 years.
Providence (19-15) had 3 20-point scorers – Bryce Cotton with 23, Vincent Council 21 and Kadeem Batts 20. Only one other player scored for the Friars, who got to quarterfinal with a win over Robert Morris, the team that beat Kentucky Wildcats in the first round.
Baylor went ahead to stay when Jefferson had a dunk with 8:11 left for a 60-59 lead. That started a 7-0 run over 71 seconds that Jefferson capped with a 3-point play.
”When you’ve got a lot on the line like an opportunity to go to New York and play in a Final 4 atmosphere in Madison Square Garden, you know you do not need to motivate as a coach,” Coach Scott Drew recounted. ”Our guys were very excited all day long for this game. … The big thing was we took care of the ball all game” NFL lines
The Bears had 19 assists with only 5 turnovers as a team.
Jackson, the point guard who had 26 points and 16 assists in Baylor’s victory over Arizona State on Friday night, played the entire game against Providence Friars. Now he gets to go to New York for the 1st time.
”That’s what I was the thinking all the time, just playing and getting the opportunity to go somewhere I have never been,” Jackson claimed.
Since losing to Penn State in the 2009 NIT championship game, the Bears had been to NCAA regional finals twice during the past 3 seasons.
They play BYU Cougars (24-11) on Tuesday; a rematch of a game the Baylor Bears won 79-64 at home on Dec. 21.
”Every coach would prefer to play a team you had not played,” Drew announced. ”But at the same time, everyone’s glad to be playing still.”
Providence jumped ahead 10-4 before Baylor Bears scored 11 points in a row, including two 3-point plays by Jefferson.
The Bears were ahead 38-35 when Cotton missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in the first half. Deuce Bello had the rebound from Baylor, but Cotton stole a pass and hit a 3 at the buzzer to tie the game.
Baylor scored the first 7 points after halftime. Friars then had a 9-2 run to tie the game at 49 with 13:16 left, and the Providence’ last lead came almost 5 minutes later when a free throw by Council put them up 59-58.
”We’ve come a long way with our program, a good ways, being picked last in our league to advancing this far,” he announced. ”I mean, we were inches away from an NCAA contest with basically a short roster, but I’m happy with our progress, looking forward to next year. ”