ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Quick thoughts on third-seeded Baylor's 68-60 victory over No. 14 South Dakota State on Thursday:
Overview: Baylor got off to an eight-point halftime lead but then had to deal with as scrappy a team as you’ll see in the NCAA tournament. When the Bears are forcing turnovers and scoring, they are a good watch. The dunks come, and the athleticism was on display. The board work was efficient and the 3s were enough to hold off South Dakota State. But the overall talent on the floor should be a strong indicator that Baylor must advance to call this season a success.
Turning point: Quincy Miller had a spin and dunk move with just under nine minutes left that gave the Bears a nine-point lead. The move didn’t squash the Jackrabbits, but it did send a strong message that the Bears weren’t going to lie down. And, of course, it highlighted the overall athleticism advantage for the Bears.
Key player: Tough call but I actually may go with Brady Heslip here. He made five 3s among his 17 points. He answered the Jackrabbits’ 3-pointers to allow the Bears to stretch first-half leads. Heslip is the kind of difference-maker for Baylor who can change the fortune of this team. He also made late free throws. The Bears will only go as far as they make perimeter shots.
Key stat: The Bears dominated the backboard as they should, outrebounding South Dakota State 35-23. This was the concern of Jackrabbit coach Scott Nagy. Perry Jones III wasn’t offensive Thursday night, but he could board. He grabbed 11, and that’s what he had to do more than anything with the overall production from players such as Quincy Miller, Brady Heslip, Pierre Jackson and Anthony Jones.
Miscellaneous: I really wanted to see what would have happened if the Pit lights went out during this game. Would Baylor’s uniforms glow in the dark? I’m all for gimmicks, but these highlighters were too much. Did I miss the return of neon and "Miami Vice"? I’m not sure which was worse: the shirts, shorts, socks or shoe laces. ... Baylor is now 2-0 in these jerseys, though. ... South Dakota State will now be the premier team in the Summit League with the departure of Oral Roberts to the Southland Conference next season. ... South Dakota State should be the class of the Summit yet again with the return of Nate Wolters. Scott Nagy is less than five years into leading the Jackrabbits into Division I. ... Oh, did I say how much I love the nickname Jackrabbits? I don’t know why, but I do. Biggest controversy was that the mascot used to look too much like Bugs Bunny. Now it no longer has a cartoon feel.
What’s next: Baylor gets the winner of UNLV-Colorado. Baylor is a bit wild at times but clearly should be playing in the second weekend. Anything less than a win Saturday would have to be deemed a disappointment. Baylor has too much talent to not make it out of here against either opponent.