2013 NIT Championship: Baylor Bears triumph over Arizona State Sun Devils

USA TODAY Sports

In front of a fantastic pro-Bear crowd tonight in Waco, the Baylor Bears continued their "Mission to MSG" in fine fashion, beating Arizona State by the score of 89-86. It wasn't nearly as easy as Long Beach State, but it was arguably much more satisfying.



My thoughts are extremely jumbled about this game, so you'll have to bear with me. First, I want to give credit to the crowd. Though they didn't look great when the game started, they sounded great throughout. There was a palpable feel, especially late, that they were impacting the game. It sounded, even on TV, like a NCAA Tournament game in all respects, and our guys obviously loved every second of it. Second, Pierre Jackson is incredible. After racking up precisely zero points through the first 18 minutes, he had 26 through the final 22 to go with a career-high 16 assists. David Smoak on twitter called his a Tiny Archibald-like performance. I'd go with Oscar Robertson, myself. He was clearly the best player on the floor in the second half and has made those that didn't vote him First Team All-Big 12 look like fools.

Third, Cory Jefferson is also incredible. I've been told he's leaning toward leaving for the NBA, but I hope he doesn't. This kind of game-- 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks-- is indicative of the talent he has. He just needs time to become more consistent, and with more time, the frequency of those kinds of games will go up. Put him on a team next season where we'll need scoring and senior leadership and his role is clear. Whether he decides to stick around for that role is his choice.

As far as everyone else goes, A.J. Walton fouling out with 17 minutes to go in the game (he had 4 personal fouls and a technical, which counts as an additional personal) opened up significant time for Deuce Bello and Taurean Prince. They responded more than capably with several highlight plays of their own, nearly all of which were facilitated by, of course, Pierre. Prince, in particular, flashed the kind of physical ability that excites me about both what could be and what could have been. Giving credit where it's due, Isaiah Austin added 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks in one of his stronger games. The stat line may not be that impressive, but he looked better, you know?

Baylor needed all of that for the simple reason that ASU's Carrick Felix played out of his mind in the second half. He ended with 23 points, 15 of which came from 3, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. After ASU lost Jonathan Gilling to the same bizarre 4 fouls and a tech situation that cost us Walton, Felix was basically ASU's entire offense in the second half. We keyed on him every time down the floor and he still made his shots. He very nearly willed his team to victory the same way Pierre did, his supporting cast just wasn't as good.

The second half of this game was as close to the old-school, up-and-down, both teams scoring points by the boatload type of basketball that everyone constantly wishes for and we rarely get. Not as many people saw it tonight as probably should have because of the NCAA Tournament, but those that did should have left entertained, if also a bit uneasy considering how close it ended up being. This was an incredible game.

And now we get another against the winner of Providence-Robert Morris next Wednesday in Waco. Yay! This game, new uniforms for the football team, and a Junior Day tomorrow ... I'd say things are pretty good.

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