Dallas Colleges: Quincy Acy

Baylor men get ready for Kentucky

March, 24, 2012

Baylor forward Quincy Acy and coach Scott Drew discuss Sunday's battle against Kentucky, and how the Bears can match up with Anthony Davis and the Wildcats.

Motivated by last year, Baylor moves on

March, 23, 2012

ATLANTA -- Baylor had every right to be concerned this past offseason.

The Bears went from the Elite Eight to no postseason at all. After losing Perry Jones III for the Big 12 tournament, when he was deemed ineligible for extra benefits, Baylor didn't receive an NIT bid. Didn't even receive a CBI bid.

The Bears were shut out after an Elite Eight appearance. And it hurt.

“We were upset by the fact that we weren’t even invited to the NIT,’’ said Baylor senior forward Anthony Jones. “We didn’t want our season to end the way it did last year.’’

But if Baylor wanted to be taken seriously, the Bears had to follow through with a rebound season in 2011-12 or else there would be serious questions about if this program was a one-hit wonder.

“That was the beginning of this season,’’ said Baylor coach Scott Drew of the postseason shutout. “We were devastated and disappointed. At the same time, that motivated us to all come back and finish what we knew we were capable of.’’

Well, a year later, the Bears are back in the Elite Eight after a 75-70 victory over Xavier, placing them in rare company of programs that will play in a regional final in two of the past three years. BU joins North Carolina, and perhaps Kentucky and Kansas later tonight.

And, for the second time in three seasons, there’s a good chance the Bears could face the potential champion to get to the Final Four.

Two years ago, the Bears lost to eventual champion Duke in the Elite Eight in Houston. This season they’ll likely have to get past Kentucky to get to New Orleans.

[+] EnlargeBaylor's Quincy Acy
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesQuincy Acy scored 20 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had several impressive dunks against Xavier.
“Losing to Duke, and how close we were to winning a championship showed the team that we could compete for a national title,’’ Drew said. “The reality was that we weren’t that far from it.’’

This group is a much more experienced team than even the Elite Eight team in 2010, and certainly more so than last season.

The Bears didn’t have a point guard with as much playmaking and sturdiness as Pierre Jackson. They didn’t have a sharp shooter like Brady Heslip.

And they didn’t have a force like Quincy Acy. He was there, but he wasn’t even close to the player he is now.

Acy was a dominant presence in spurts against Xavier on Friday. The Bears raced out to a 14-2 start and whenever the Bears wanted to re-assert themselves, Acy was there with a ferocious flush.

“Last year was our motivation,’’ said Acy. “We worked harder than ever before in the preseason. We had high motivation. None of us wanted to go out like that. Perry didn’t have a postseason.’’

Jones III made the decision to come back despite having to sit the first five games of this season. Jones III has had his enigmatic moments, but he also has proven to be a tough matchup. A few lobs in the second half were difference-makers for the Bears.

“We started to get stops and threw a different defense at them,’’ Acy said. “We still need to do a better job of holding leads. We still need to work on that.’’

The Bears have the length and athleticism to beat Indiana and certainly to match up with Kentucky.

“This is crazy, to go from sophomore year to the Elite Eight, to junior year no postseason and then back to the Elite Eight with a chance to go to the Final Four, it’s indescribable,’’ Anthony Jones said. “Senior leadership is the difference. Talent-wise, we’re a much better team.

“A lot of people in the country want to see this matchup,’’ Jones said of playing Kentucky. “We can take it up another level.’’

Drew has often been criticized for his coaching, and some rival coaches love to make it seem like he pulled off a get-rich scheme to put Baylor on the map so soon after the scandal that rocked the university.

After another Elite Eight in such a brief period, Drew is starting to quiet all the dissenters.

Few coaches reach one Elite Eight. Now Drew has been to two.

“We’ve been blessed,’’ Drew said. “I’ll tell you how much after Sunday.’’

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 75, Xavier 70

March, 23, 2012

ATLANTA -- A quick look at Baylor's 75-70 win over Xavier in a Sweet 16 matchup at the Georgia Dome.

Overview: If you had turned off the television or left the Georgia Dome five minutes into the game, you would have thought Baylor should just cut down the nets in New Orleans. The Bears had one of the more impressive starts in the NCAA tournament, getting off to a 14-2 lead to begin the game.

Baylor can look incredibly impressive when it’s out in the open floor. Quincy Acy is a force when he can get to the basket, especially on a dunk. Pierre Jackson runs a fluid game, and Brady Heslip is one of the better complementary role players with his shooting in the field.

But the Bears don’t put teams away. Xavier fought back by going inside to Kenny Frease and was within two scores a number of times in the second half. The Musketeers couldn’t make enough 3s, and that ultimately might have been their undoing.

Baylor survived and advanced to the Elite Eight. Just think about that. Baylor is in its second Elite Eight in three seasons. Baylor. That should speak volumes about how far this program has come under Scott Drew.

Key player: Quincy Acy. The Bears desperately need a physical force. They have tremendous length, but they don’t always use that size and strength to their advantage. Acy was a man among boys at times Friday. His ferocious dunks should be made into freeze-frame posters to hand out at the Georgia Dome. Acy allowed the Bears to settle down when they got a little too wild, and finished with 15 rebounds and 20 points. If Acy continues to play this way, the Bears have a legitimate shot to hang with Kentucky and, perhaps, pull off an upset.

Key stat: The Musketeers’ 3-point shooting was a woeful 3-for-15. Justin Martin made two 3s in the game. If the Musketeers were going to come all the way back from a 14-2 deficit, they were going to need to make 3s. Xavier did a fine job of getting the ball inside to Frease during a 13-0 run late in the first half. But the scoring droughts from Tu Holloway in the second half didn’t help. The Musketeers did get the lead down to six with a little more than a minute left -- on that second 3-pointer by Martin. Holloway hit his first 3-pointer of the game with just less than 20 seconds left to cut Baylor’s lead to 71-68. Heslip then converted four free throws to help the Bears to a 75-70 final.

Turning point: Perry Jones III has been rather quiet throughout the NCAA tournament. But Jackson made sure he was assertive and helped snuff out a mini Xavier run that seemed to be turning momentum. Following an Anthony Jones 3-pointer, Jones III received two lobs -- the first from Jackson -- and hit a face-up jumper, pushing the Bears to a nine-point lead. The Musketeers didn’t go away quietly and had it down to five points. But Jones’ assertiveness definitely helped shift momentum back to the Bears at a critical time.

What’s next: No. 3-seeded Baylor will take on No. 1-seeded Kentucky on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. This will be Baylor’s second Elite Eight in three seasons. The Bears have Final Four potential. The problem is that they’re in Kentucky’s bracket. Put Baylor in the West bracket, and it’s not close which team would be the favorite.

South preview: Xavier vs. Baylor

March, 22, 2012

ATLANTA -- Perry Jones III doesn’t have to be dominant for Baylor to advance to the Elite Eight.

All he has to do is stay on the floor.

The 6-foot-11 Jones has been much-maligned this season. There are times when he looks like a top-10 NBA draft pick. There are other times when he’s just another lanky, athletic big from Baylor.

But his presence is enough to warrant plenty of attention -- and that can end up meaning buckets inside for Quincy Acy or Anthony Jones, and certainly open 3s for Brady Heslip.

If Jones were playing hockey, he’d get plenty of assists from his passes that lead to the pass for the score.

Jones hasn’t had a breakthrough scoring game since his 31 against Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament. The sophomore's numbers have dipped recently, and he has a combined nine points in the first two NCAA tournament games. But he did have 11 boards in a win over South Dakota State and four in the win over Colorado.

[+] EnlargePerry Jones III
Richard Mackson/US PresswirePerry Jones III is showing that he doesn't have to score in bunches to be a factor for Baylor.
His offense wasn’t needed in either game. But he did make the opposing teams pay attention.

“Sometimes my shot is not falling,’’ Jones said Thursday in advance of Friday night’s game against Xavier in the Sweet 16 at the Georgia Dome. “I shy away from keeping shooting the ball. Sometimes it’s not my night. I mean, it doesn’t bother me at all if we’re winning the game. I feel like I help my team in other ways.’’

Xavier will need to find Jones throughout the game Friday night.

“The best thing I can do is try to get the ball to whoever’s hot in the game,’’ Jones said. “If my shot’s not falling, I’d rather go 1-for-7 than 1-for-20-something and then we lose. I just try to do something, just try to rebound, maybe get offensive rebounds, do whatever I can to help my team.’’

Jones may have hurt his NBA draft stock a bit. But not much. You can’t take away his length and athleticism. He still oozes potential. The goal in Atlanta is to ensure he’s on the scouting report for the Musketeers.

And he will be.

“The best thing I can do is move forward and help our team break through for the next couple of games,’’ Jones said.

If Baylor gets a chance to face Kentucky, Jones will need to be a factor against Anthony Davis and friends.

“You’ve got to have balance and that’s the strength of our team,’’ Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We have unselfish players. Perry Jones wasn’t making some shots the last two games that he normally does, but to his credit, a lot of times because of the help-side defense, he was making the hockey assist out, which led to baskets.

“Statistically, it doesn’t show up, but at the end of the day, wins and losses are the most important thing. Without the front-line play, we definitely don’t get two wins.’’

Who to watch

Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, Xavier: The Xavier guards were the reason that some of us, notably me, picked the Musketeers to get to the Final Four in November.

The season has been a bit erratic, to say the least. But if this team advances, Holloway and Lyons will still be the reason. Holloway scored 21 points and made four 3s in the win over Lehigh in the third round. Lyons wasn’t as productive, but he still made his presence felt.

Holloway was even more dominant in the win over Notre Dame. He scored 25 points and made an efficient 10 of 15 shots.

Brady Heslip, Baylor: Heslip made nine 3s in the win over Colorado on Saturday. But the Musketeers are certainly going to defend him a bit tighter than the Buffs. Heslip still can deliver a dagger if he’s open. The key will be to not play off him at any point.

“Any guy that can score 27 points in the NCAA tournament without dribbling, he’s a really good player,’’ Holloway said. “He’s a great player. We have a lot of respect for not only him, but the Baylor team.’’

“We have to make him take tough shots, because if he gets open, it’s more than likely going to go down,’’ Lyons said. “You’ve got to be ready to chase him.’’

What to watch

Kenny Frease vs. the Baylor bigs: Frease will have his hands full Friday night. The Xavier center has to stay out of foul trouble. He’ll get some help from forward Andre Walker, but Frease must keep Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones off the offensive backboard.

If the Musketeers are going to have a chance to win, they must get second shots, too.

“We know the guards are going to be able to help us from the top, but we’ve got to take that responsibility on ourselves to try to contain [Jones] as much as possible,’’ Frease said. “He’ll pose a lot of problems for us, but it will depend on how we handle them.’’

Bears say Heslip hardworking, humble

March, 18, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Brady Heslip was stocky, not exactly someone who looked like he was going to be an impact player when he arrived at Boston College in the middle of the season two years ago.

And his impact was minimal, since he had been stashed at New Hampton Prep (N.H.) for the fall semester before he joined the Eagles in December. Then the staff was fired. New Boston College coach Steve Donahue didn’t see Heslip’s potential, for whatever reason. Heslip said the two met, he wasn’t in the plans and so he was out.

Former BC associate head coach Pat Duquette, who now has the same title at Northeastern, said he recruited Heslip out of Burlington, Ontario. Duquette said Heslip was “absolutely fearless, but physically more than you see. He had very long arms, which equaled a high release. And he had unusually big hands for a guard his size.’’

Former BC head coach Al Skinner said by phone Saturday night that he liked Heslip’s tough-minded approach.

“The thing about him was that he didn’t hunt shots; he let the game come to him,’’ Skinner said. “He executed well and was patient on the offensive end. He rarely takes a bad shot, and he had tremendous range.’’

[+] EnlargeBrady Heslip
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBrady Heslip hit nine 3-pointers on Saturday to help Baylor earn a school-record 29th win.
There was an AAU connection with his coach to the Baylor staff. He went on a visit to Waco, Texas, and was sold. Baylor coach Scott Drew said Heslip dropped 24 pounds. He was a gym rat. His teammates loved him. But little did they know what they were getting in return.

“I know how hard he’s worked,’’ Baylor’s Quincy Acy said. “When he came in, we knew how good a shooter he was. Every time I went to the gym at night, I would see him in there sometimes twice a day. He works for it. I know whenever he gets hot, he can outshoot anybody.’’

Heslip’s impact Saturday night was epic for a Baylor program that is breaking barriers.

Heslip hit nine 3s for a career-high 27 points in Baylor’s 80-63 victory over Colorado at the Pit, to propel the Bears to their second Sweet 16 appearance in three seasons. The two Sweet 16s are the only ones in the school’s history. Drew is now 5-2 in the NCAA tournament, and the win Saturday gave the Bears a school-record 29 victories.

Heslip’s nine 3s set a single-game NCAA tournament record for the Bears. How much of an impact is Heslip having on a team known for its up-tempo style, tremendous length, and headliners Acy, Perry Jones III and Pierre Jackson?

“Heslip was the difference,’’ Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “He was unconscious tonight.’’

Heslip made six of his 3s in the first half, but the Bears were up only two. His three 3s in the second half helped open up the game. Sure, there were times when Acy and Quincy Miller as well as Anthony Jones were extremely difficult to stop inside. The 17 offensive rebounds kept possessions alive. The 24 defensive rebounds ended plenty of the Buffs’ attempts.

But Heslip busted the game open.

“I’m just feeling great right now, first of all, because we won,’’ Heslip said. “I’m just happy for my seniors.

“As for the shooting, Pierre does a great job of finding me when I’m open and finding me in transition. Acy sets great screens, and it was just one of those nights.’’

Heslip was getting the ball in motion and was stroking it without any hesitation.

“If I’m in rhythm and feeling good shooting, it just makes it even easier,’’ Heslip said.

Baylor was a major disappointment last season, following an Elite Eight appearance and the departure of point guard Tweety Carter with a flameout in the Big 12 tournament. Jones’ ineligibility days before the tourney led to the Bears' missing the rest of the postseason.

The arrival of Jackson from junior college and Heslip’s eligibility changed the backcourt for the Bears and the potential for this squad.

If you followed Baylor early in the season, you saw wins at BYU and Northwestern and over Mississippi State, Saint Mary’s and West Virginia -- the latter three all on neutral courts. The Bears couldn’t beat Missouri or Kansas in the regular season but knocked off the Jayhawks in the Big 12 tournament.

Now Baylor is the first Big 12 team in the Sweet 16. And if Purdue were to upset Kansas on Sunday, the Bears could be the only one. Even if the Jayhawks join them, the Bears are peaking at the right time.

And so is Heslip, an option that makes the Bears that much more formidable in a possible showdown with Kentucky in the South Region at Atlanta with a right to go to the Final Four.

“Brady will be the first to tell you that his teammates really got him open and got him the ball,’’ Drew said. “That humility is what makes our team successful.’’

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 80, Colorado 63

March, 17, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Reaction from Baylor's 80-63 win over Colorado.

Overview: Give Colorado plenty of credit, the Buffaloes were scrappy until the final few minutes. But they simply didn’t have the overall talent to hang with Baylor, especially against the power game inside or the 3-point shooting from Brady Heslip and Anthony Jones. The Bears put on quite a display. They have the ability to turn it on as well as any team in the country, outside of Kentucky. If Baylor can play like this it should meet Kentucky in the Elite Eight Sunday in Atlanta.

Turning point: There were many to choose from but I’m more inclined to go with a Quincy Acy spin-move slam that was as impressive as you’ll see. That bucket gave the Bears a 61-58 advantage and set the tone for what would soon be a blowout. That bucket was the precursor to the 3s that Heslip started to drain, which opened up the game.

Key player: Brady Heslip. He made nine 3s, two shy of The Pit record, set by the late Bobby Phills in 1990 when he played for Southern and one shy of a school record. It was also only two shy of the NCAA tournament record set by Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer against Michigan in 1990. Heslip missed only three. The Buffs tried to find him but couldn’t contest. It was as good a performance as you’ll see from beyond the 3-point line.

Key stat: The 3s were noteworthy, but just as big a deal was the rebounding margin. The Bears dominated the backboard. Their defensive rebounding severely limited the Buffs' ability to get second-shot opportunities.

Miscellaneous: Baylor went with the yellow highlighter uniforms. The Bears are 3-0 with them. Former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg flew in to represent the conference that he currently works in, the Pac-12. Odd that he was watching two former conference members tussle at The Pit. Baylor fans were chanting "Big 12 rejects" at Colorado when Baylor was up by 12. Not cool. The proper chant came later when the Bears fans were chanting “Big 12.” That was enough.

What’s next: Baylor will play the winner of Lehigh-Xavier on Friday in Atlanta for the right to go to the Elite Eight and possibly take on South top seed Kentucky. The Bears have the makeup to challenge Kentucky better than anyone else in this bracket. The Bears also have a chance to get to the Elite Eight by facing only double-digit seeds if Lehigh were to upset Xavier.

Another telling game for Baylor, Mizzou

February, 11, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- They call it 10-for-14, a sort of masochistic shooting drill Marcus Denmon and Phil Pressey dreamed up in the preseason. The idea is simple: Make 10 out of 14 shots from seven spots on the floor.

The catch? If you don’t hit 10, start over.

Pressey rarely had to start over when the two Missouri guards got together for the preseason drill. Yet during games, Denmon often finds himself yelling at his point guard, practically begging him to shoot.

“Phil is just naturally a pass-first player,’’ Denmon said. “I’m always telling him to shoot. He says he hears me, but he doesn’t always shoot it.’’

Pressey heard the call against sixth-ranked Baylor, draining four of Missouri’s season-high 14 3-pointers in a 72-57 win that solidified both what makes the Tigers so special and what makes the Bears so exasperating.

For 25 games now, the critics and doubters have circled, railing about what Missouri isn’t. Mostly, the Tigers aren’t big and haven’t been since Laurence Bowers went down with a torn ACL before the season.

Perhaps now, with the calendar bearing down on March, with the Tigers owning a 23-2 record and not only jockeying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament but also elbowing to earn the coveted St. Louis regional top spot -- and with three wins against top-10 opponents for the first time in 22 years -- it is time to finally discuss what Mizzou is.

“When Missouri is on, there is nobody in the country as good as them offensively in the country,’’ Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Nobody. Period. And they’ve been on a lot this season.’’

Drew, who could double as a presidential candidate in his endless effort to spin positive on his own flailing team, for once wasn’t trafficking in hyperbole.

Three weeks ago, Drew decided his longer and taller team would be better served if the Bears played man-to-man against Missouri. Ricardo Ratliffe went for 27 points, with his speedy guards slicing and dicing the flat-footed defenders.

This time, Drew went zone, figuring it would slow the Tigers down.

“At the end of the day, when you play Missouri, you have to give up something,’’ Drew said. “We decided to give up the 3.’’

[+] EnlargePhil Pressey
Dak Dillon/US PresswireWith Phil Pressey leading the way, Missouri's offense had Baylor baffled on Saturday.
He got that part right at least. The game was still tight, 38-37, after the under-16 timeout. In the Tigers’ next six possessions, they sank five 3-pointers.

It wasn’t tight after that. That four players scored those five 3s says everything about Missouri’s versatility.

That Pressey was one of them says even more. The sophomore can turn heads on one play and make people bang their heads on the next, a cat-quick guard who occasionally falls in love with the flair more than the finish. He was an offensive nonfactor in his previous two games, scoring just two against Kansas and five against Oklahoma.

The Tigers can and did win without him scoring, but when he does, he makes them that much better. With 12 in his pocket by the break, Pressey forced Baylor to honor his shot in the second and made the Bears pay -- by kicking the ball to Denmon, Kim English or Michael Dixon.

Asked how he would defend against his own team, Pressey wasn’t offering up any insight.

“I don’t know what I’d do,’’ he said with a smirk. “I can’t tell you what our weakness is. I’ll let you all figure that out.’’

Baylor, certainly, will be wondering for a while. In two games, the Tigers have left the Bears behind like roadkill, hitting them with two different styles yet two equally dominant wins.

And as much as this is about who the Tigers are, it is also an indictment of what Baylor is not.

Or more, what the Bears ought to be. Outside of Kentucky and North Carolina, there might not be a more NBA-loaded roster in the country. Yet in back-to-back games against their two biggest Big 12 rivals, the Bears have looked nothing shy of awful.

The Tigers and Jayhawks have outscored the Bears by an average of 12 points, scored 80.3 points and shot 53 percent. Against everyone else this season, Baylor is 15.9 points better, giving up only 60.5 points and 38 percent shooting.

The Bears have not just lost, but have been embarrassed by the Jayhawks and steamrolled by Missouri, leaving Drew to look for small slivers of a silver lining on a team that has too much talent to require so much searching.

Kansas’ Jeff Withey was the best big man on the floor last week. Steve Moore took the honors Saturday, outplaying, outworking and outhustling a big-boy lineup that includes Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy.

A game after his five-point APB showing against the Jayhawks, Jones scored four, shooting 2-of-12.

“Every night we depend on Perry Jones, so when he struggles, it hurts us,’’ Anthony Jones said. “We’re not the same team without him being Perry Jones.’’

Perry Jones is experiencing the burden of the anointed that is the reality of college basketball today. Drew is right when he says that “you are judged on your potential.’’ He’s also right that he has a fairly young team.

But Kentucky is a fairly young team with an awful lot of anointed players, and the Wildcats are toting the burden with aplomb.

Baylor, instead, is caving under it. The Bears are, barring a miracle, all but eliminated from the Big 12 race.

And instead of picking up steam, they are picking up doubters.

That’s just the opposite of Missouri. With every passing game, the Tigers are silencing the critics, showing that while they might be unorthodox, they are no less effective.

Makes sense.

This is the Show Me State, after all.

Midweek Watch: Toughness key for Baylor

February, 8, 2012
Editor’s Note: Click here for Jason King’s prediction on tonight’s Kansas-Baylor matchup, as well as several other top Wednesday games.

To beat Kansas Wednesday night, Baylor forward Quincy Acy knows Baylor must play better than it did in last month’s 18-point loss to the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.

And to Acy, playing better means playing tougher.

Especially down low.

Acy was asked Tuesday evening if he thought the Bears were “pushed around” in the paint during their first meeting with Kansas.

“I do, I honestly do,” Acy told ESPN.com. “We stopped going inside. They got a couple of blocked shots early and we started settling for jumpers. That’s not like us. I can’t really tell you why we did it, but it happened and that’s uncharacteristic for us.”

Baylor’s frontcourt talent has never been questioned. The Bears have a pair of future first-round NBA draft picks in Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller. And Acy, a senior, has been an mainstay in the rotation since his freshman season. Baylor’s toughness and aggression, however, have been an area of concern all season.

[+] EnlargeThomas Robinson
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireBaylor's focus in its rematch with Kansas -- stopping Thomas Robinson, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in their game in January.
Schools such as BYU and West Virginia controlled the glass against Baylor early in the season before Kansas out-rebounded the Bears 36-21 in Lawrence Jan. 16. All-American Thomas Robinson snared 14 of those boards and also muscled past defenders on his way to 27 points.

Acy -- the one Baylor player who has never been criticized for shying away from physicality -- said he’s done everything he can to make sure he and his teammates are better prepared for tonight’s rematch.

“Me being a senior leader, I can’t let that happen,” Acy said. “If I see someone backing down, I’ve got to do a better job of getting in their face and letting them know that they’re getting outworked. When people say our frontcourt is soft ... I take that to heart, like I’m not doing enough.”

Acy said hearing criticisms about their passive play has helped inspire frontcourt teammates, which also include reserves Cory Jefferson and Anthony Jones.

“The guys have responded well,” he said. “But remember, we’ve got a lot of guys who are pretty much threes (small forwards) trying to play the four and the five. Quincy Miller is a three, Perry is a three-four. But because they’re tall, they have to play down low for us.

“That’s still no excuse. You’ve got to go out there and compete. I make sure I go at them hard every day in practice and raise my level of physicality up.”

Even the most physical player would have a hard time stopping Robinson, who many believe is the frontrunner for the Wooden Award. A 6-foot-9 junior, Robinson averages 18 points and ranks second in the nation in rebounds with 12 per game. As much as they want to beat Robinson, Acy said he and his teammates can’t help but respect him.

“He plays with an aggression, like he has something to prove,” Acy said. “The tragic story about his family plays a part in it. He’s on a mission. He has to provide for his family. I admire that about him. He’s a great dude. I like the passion he plays with.”

Tonight's game is huge for both teams. At 8-2, sixth-ranked Baylor and No. 10 Kansas are a half-game back of Missouri (9-2) in the Big 12 title race. The Jayhawks should be full of motivation following Saturday’s 74-71 loss to Missouri in Columbia.

Kansas -- which is vying for its eighth straight conference championship -- hasn’t lost consecutive games since the 2006 season.

“We always come back with a good attitude and learn from our mistakes,” point guard Tyshawn Taylor said.

Added Robinson: “You still have the bad taste in your mouth from the last game. Going into the (next) game, you want to get that taste out of your mouth.”

That’s probably how Baylor feels about its 92-74 loss to Kansas on Jan. 16.

Baylor played well early but went into a funk after Jones -- Baylor’s leading scorer -- tweaked an ankle injury late in the first half. Jones had been aggressive early but, much like the rest of his teammates, he began settling for jumpers the rest of the way.

Now healthy, Jones has averaged 17.8 points in Baylor’s past four games, all of which were victories.

“This is definitely the most consistent stretch that he’s had,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “If you just go back and look at that Kansas game, once he tweaked the ankle, we were up three or five ... the momentum and everything changed at that point. And as a coach, I probably should have gotten him out, because laterally he couldn’t move nearly as effective on the defensive end, and that affects you in a lot of different areas.”

Tonight’s game is the first of two for Baylor against top-10 opponents, as the Bears travel to Columbia Saturday to take on Missouri. The Tigers defeated Baylor 89-88 on Jan. 21 in Waco. Victories in each of these contests would put the Bears in a great position to win their first conference title since 1945.

“When I came here, I just wanted a chance to help turn this program around and help put us on the map,” Acy said. “Our guys in the past have helped put us on the map, now it’s our job to help keep us there by bringing a Big 12 championship to Waco. That’s on our mind and on our agenda every time we step on the court.”

Wooden Watch: Jason King's POY ballot

February, 8, 2012

With one month remaining in the regular season, the battle for the Wooden Award appears to be a two-man race between Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. Right now I’m leaning toward Davis, the projected No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. But you could definitely make an argument for Robinson, too. There are still plenty of opportunities for each to impress -- or regress. Here’s how I’d vote if the season ended today.
  1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky - The 6-foot-10 Davis averaged 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks in the Wildcats’ most recent victories over South Carolina and Florida. He shot a collective 17-of-23 from the field in those two games. Davis’ presence alone affects the game on the defensive end.
  2. Thomas Robinson, Kansas - Robinson had 20 points and 17 rebounds in a victory over Oklahoma before erupting for 25 and 13 in Saturday’s 74-71 loss at Missouri. When he’s playing his best, Robinson might be the toughest player in the country to stop in the paint. He’ll be tested Wednesday by Baylor’s Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III.
  3. Kevin Jones, West Virginia - The senior forward continues to post gaudy stats - he’s scored 20 or more points in nine consecutive games - but his team is struggling. The Mountaineers have lost three of their past four contests, with the only victory coming in overtime against Big East bottom-feeder Providence. Impossible as it might seem, West Virginia may need Jones to do even more.
  4. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State - The versatile Buckeyes forward averaged 21 points and 8 rebounds in victories over Wisconsin and Purdue. College basketball fans - and Wooden Award voters - have grown used to seeing Sullinger post impressive stat lines. It’d be a shame if they started taking him for granted.
  5. Doug McDermott, Creighton - The Bluejays sophomore has averaged 21.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the three games since the last Wooden Award ballot was released. Creighton, though, lost back-to-back contests at Northern Iowa and Evansville during that span. The setbacks certainly aren’t McDermott’s fault — but it’s definitely on him to make sure they don’t become a trend. Saturday’s home game against Wichita State is huge.
On the cusp:

Perry Jones III, Baylor - Jones has scored 15 or more points in each of his past four games, but he’ll need to be more assertive than ever if the Bears have any hope of defeating Kansas in Waco, Texas, on Wednesday.

Games to track: Baylor-Mizzou; Texas-Kansas

January, 20, 2012

For full coverage of all the top matchups, check out Weekend Watch.

Saturday's game
No. 5 Missouri at No. 3 Baylor (1 p.m. CT, ESPN):

Missouri: The Tigers might have the quickest lineup in college basketball. Frank Haith's guards have been very efficient, and have made much better decisions on offense and defense this season. Missouri can still fall into some "chuck and duck" habits, which worked well under Mike Anderson but does not fit with the style favored by Haith.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Denmon
Jeff Moffett/Icon SMIMarcus Denmon is averaging 17.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for Missouri.
The Tigers run a set-play, quick-hitting offense that features four guards around undersized big man Ricardo Ratliffe. Point guard Phil Pressey is almost impossible to stay in front of, and he is an elite passer who willingly gives up the ball. Pressey has a near 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and leads the team in steals with 37. The wings are among the best in the nation, with All-America candidate Marcus Denmon and the ridiculously efficient Kim English. English's transformation has been remarkable. Last season, his confidence was waning. This season, he seemingly cannot miss. His decisions have improved, and he is hitting more than 50 percent of his 3-point shots. Ratliffe is benefiting from single coverage in the post and the drop-offs from his teammates to shoot better than 77 percent from the field. The single-season record is 74 percent by Oregon State's Steve Johnson back when Ralph Miller was the Beavers' coach.

Baylor: The Bears are big, long, athletic and deep along the front line, and have one of the most talented frontcourts in the country. Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, Anthony Jones and Cory Jefferson provide the bodies and length to overwhelm a smaller team on the glass and the defensive end.

Before the season, I was one who questioned the Baylor guards and whether the Bears would be able to improve ball security. Last season, Baylor turned the ball over at a very high rate. Turnovers are still an issue, but this team is much better with the ball. Guards Brady Heslip, A.J. Walton and Pierre Jackson are far better than I anticipated, and Jackson is a game-changing talent. He has the ability to guard the ball, see the floor with terrific vision and play with a fearlessness that allows his teammates to do their jobs without worrying about his.

Key players: Denmon and Jackson. Denmon scratches in just about every category for the Tigers and is an attack guard. Denmon excels in transition, and Baylor can afford to put Walton, Jackson or a defender with more size on him. Denmon is a very good defender but might have some issues matching up with bigger Baylor players. Jackson is incredibly strong and athletic, and has the ability to guard Pressey and Denmon. If he can stay out of foul difficulty, Jackson has the ability to change the game with his pressure and steals. On the offensive end, Jackson is a potent scorer, but he is also a fabulous passer. He will get a lob dunk from deep for a teammate; you can bank on it. However, he also has 64 turnovers to go with his 98 assists.

Key shooters: Heslip and English. Heslip transferred from Boston College and has a really quick release. He has hit 51 3s, by far the most on the Baylor roster, and is shooting 47 percent from 3. English is shooting better than 50 percent from deep, and his stroke is pure. He has hit 45 3s in only 88 attempts.

Key bigs: Ratliffe and Perry Jones III. Ratliffe plays off his guards very well but must avoid fouls to be able to stay in the game. Without Ratliffe, Missouri can get overwhelmed on the glass. Jones is a special talent. He needs to be assertive and dominate his matchup. No player on the Missouri roster can guard him.

Key stat: Turnovers and rebounding. Baylor should own the backboards but also has to get to long rebounds, which will be an issue in this game. Baylor turned the ball over against the pressure of Kansas and needs to take care of the ball against the pressure brought by Missouri. Pressey's initial ball pressure will be key.

Who wins: Baylor is coming off a loss and playing at home. How the Bears guard the 3-point line will go a long way in determining this one. Expect Baylor to play some man-to-man in addition to some zone. If the Bears take good shots and limit Missouri in transition, I like the Bears to win. Baylor 74-70.

No. 7 Kansas at Texas (3 p.m. Saturday): Kansas is playing at such a high level that the Jayhawks would have to come down a few notches if they’re going to lose at erratic Texas. The Longhorns don’t have the strength to deal with Thomas Robinson. I’d be surprised if Kansas loses this game.

Tougher Jones, Baylor stay undefeated

January, 11, 2012

MANHATTAN, Kan. — For years he has been hailed as a future NBA lottery pick. Baylor’s Perry Jones III is a phenom, professional scouts have said, an athletic freak.

Lately, though, the 6-foot-11 forward whom some have labeled as the most talented player in America has heard a new set of adjectives to describe his game.




“Every day someone asks me, ‘Is Perry going to get any tougher?’” Bears coach Scott Drew said. “I think he answered that question tonight.”

Indeed, in one of the most intense games of the college basketball season to date, Jones put on his best scowl and muscled up when Baylor needed him most in a 75-73 victory over Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum.

[+] EnlargePerry Jones
Scott Sewell/US PresswirePerry Jones' 17 points helped Baylor remain undefeated.
Jones scored a team-high 17 points, but his biggest moment came when he fought off K-State forward Jamar Samuels to rebound a missed 3-pointer by teammate Brady Heslip with 26 seconds remaining and Baylor leading 74-73. Jones was immediately fouled, and he split a pair of free throws to give the Bears a two-point cushion.

Drew couldn’t help but scream and pump his fist when time expired after Kansas State failed to score on its final possession. At 16-0, fourth-ranked Baylor remains one of three undefeated teams in college basketball. And as for Jones, who snared a game-high 8 rebounds?

“No one can say he’s not tough now,” Baylor forward Quincy Acy said. “For people to call him soft ... he just [has] taken that and ran with it.”

In some ways, Baylor has, too.

Much like their All-America candidate, the Bears have spent much of the past two seasons listening to fans and pundits question their focus and heart. Last season they were ranked as high as ninth but floundered down the stretch and failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Even during the early portions of this season there were times when it seemed as though the Bears needed to develop a mean streak -- especially in the paint, where Baylor boasts one of the most talented front lines in college basketball with Jones, Acy and Quincy Miller. Getting outrebounded by undersized squads such as BYU was inexcusable.

“It seems like every time we’re picked to lose, it’s because we’re not tough enough,” Jones said.

No. 18 Kansas State -- which was fresh off a blowout of then-unbeaten Missouri -- probably begs to differ after Tuesday.

Much like Baylor, Frank Martin’s squad boasts excellent size and depth in the paint, and the Wildcats are regarded yearly as one of the country’s most physical teams. But Kansas State outrebounded Baylor by only 28-26 on Tuesday, and the Bears outscored the Wildcats 36-32 in the paint.

Acy, though, said Baylor’s mental toughness -- and not the physical kind -- is the biggest reason for the Bears’ 16-0 start.

“Tough isn’t about going out and elbowing someone,” Acy said. “It’s about how you respond in certain situations when the crowd is against you. We’ve done a good job of persevering.”

A year ago, Baylor was 3-10 in games played outside of Waco, Texas. This season, the Bears are 7-0 in road and neutral-site games. Their points per game (65.8 to 73.1) and field-goal percentage (42.3 to 49.2) in those contests have improved dramatically from season to season.

Four of Baylor’s past five victories -- against BYU, West Virginia, Mississippi State and Kansas State -- have been decided by three points or less. None of those games were in Waco.

That’s poise, that’s toughness. Especially considering the added pressures that come along with being undefeated.

“We have a target on our back,” Jones said. “We’re getting everyone’s A-game. It’s difficult, but it feels a lot better than losing, definitely.”

The reasons Baylor is playing with more moxie are plentiful. With a 10-man rotation, BU has one of the deepest benches in America. Fresh legs and spirits are always a good replacement for a worn-down teammate who is upset with himself because of a turnover or missed shot.

The Bears also have two strong tone-setters in Acy and junior-college transfer Pierre Jackson, a point guard who had 11 assists Tuesday. Jackson’s fearlessness and spunk -- he often lets out a “Woooo!” after a big play -- have been infectious to his teammates, many of whom are beginning to take on his swagger.

Acy is the senior veteran who has reveled in the glory of advancing to the Elite Eight and felt the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament one year later.

“We try not to pay too much attention to [our rankings],” Acy said. “Last year we got a little fame and we got embarrassed a couple of times. I stressed to the guys that we shouldn’t get caught up in the rankings and all that. Every game, we’ve got to play like we’ve got something to lose, like we have a target on our back.”

The Bears certainly did against Kansas State, when they trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half. Baylor fought back and trailed by only two at intermission.

Numerous Baylor players came up with clutch plays in the second half of a game that featured six ties and 10 leads changes.

Moments after K-State’s Will Spradling hit a 3-pointer to put his team ahead 63-62, freshman Miller responded with a 3-pointer on the other end to help Baylor regain the lead and quiet the crowd.

Soon after, KSU looked as though it may pull away when Henriquez swished a pair of foul shots that made it 71-67, but Heslip did a nice job of drawing contact on the Bears’ ensuing possession. He went to the free-throw line and made it a two-point game again.

“Guys didn’t get mad at each other,” Jones said. “We still played basketball the way we know how to play. When we see someone down we say, ‘C’mon, we’ve got to do this for 40 minutes. We’ve got to grind. There’s no time for sulking.’”

[+] EnlargePierre Jackson
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesWith 10 points and 11 assists, Pierre Jackson was the glue that held Baylor together against Kansas State.
Acy scored five consecutive points -- four of which came as a result of his own steals -- to turn a 71-69 deficit into a 74-71 lead. A basket by Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder made it 74-73 with 2:04 remaining.

The only other point of the game came on Jones’ free throw with 20 seconds remaining following his heroic rebound.

Kansas State still had a chance to win or force a tie, and it looked as though it would happen when freshman point guard Angel Rodriguez broke free for what appeared to be an easy layup. But at the last moment, Baylor’s A.J. Walton ripped the ball away from Rodriguez with 3 seconds remaining.

The ball sailed out of bounds, and the Wildcats’ hopes died moments later when Acy got a hand on Rodriguez’s high-arching entry pass to Samuels and batted toward the other end of the court. Time expired as Kansas State chased down the loose ball.

“We assumed they were going to throw a lob because of the time,” Acy said. “They had run that play a couple of other times earlier in the game. I was fortunate to tip it and let the clock run out.”

Martin, whose team fell to 12-3 overall and 1-2 in Big 12 play, couldn’t have been more dejected after the game, mainly because the Wildcats had 20 turnovers.

“The guys wearing our uniforms threw the ball to the guys wearing their uniforms so they could go down and dunk,” Martin said. “For us not to protect our home court and not close this game out because of a comedy of plays is embarrassing.”

The win was easily Baylor’s biggest of the season -- and possibly one of the monumental of the Scott Drew era. Bramlage Coliseum is regarded as one of the toughest places to play in the country. Other than Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse, the Bears won’t encounter a louder, more difficult road environment all season.

Drew also realizes his squad beat an exceptional team in Kansas State, whose only two losses before Tuesday were to West Virginia (in overtime) and Kansas.

“I’d put them up against anyone we’ve faced or up against any top-10 team in the nation,” Drew said. “They’re that good.”

People would’ve said the same thing about Baylor before Tuesday’s game. But now the narrative is different. Perry Jones and the Bears were always one of the nation’s most-talented teams.

Now they’re one of the toughest.

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 75, Kansas State 73

January, 10, 2012

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Here are some quick thoughts from Baylor's 75-73 victory over Kansas State on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.

Overview: Perry Jones III scored 17 points and Pierre Jackson dished out 11 assists to lead the No. 4 Bears over the 18th-ranked Wildcats. At 16-0, Baylor is one of the country's three remaining undefeated teams. Rodney McGruder scored 30 points for a Kansas State squad that entered the game flying high following Saturday's blowout of previously unbeaten Missouri. The Wildcats had a chance to win or force a tie with 3 seconds remaining, but Baylor's Quincy Acy deflected their inbounds pass down the court and time expired during the chase for the loose ball.

Star of the game: For Baylor, it had to be Jackson, whose 10 points weren't nearly as big as his 11 assists. Jackson has completely changed the tone of the Bears' program with his toughness.

McGruder came up huge for the Wildcats against a big-name opponent again, having scored 20 points in Saturday's victory over Mizzou. McGruder is becoming more aggressive with each game, which has been a problem for him at times in the past.

Turning point: The game wasn't decided until Acy swatted away Kansas State's inbounds pass under the Wildcats' basket in the waning seconds. Moments earlier, he had scored five consecutive points to help Baylor turn a 71-69 deficit into a 74-71 lead. A basket by McGruder shaved the Wildcats' deficit to 74-73 before Jones was fouled while rebounding a teammate's miss on the other end. He made one of two free throws to make it 75-73.

What the win means for Baylor: The Bears survived what will be one of their two toughest Big 12 road tests. The other will come Monday at Kansas. This team is mentally tougher than Bears squads of the past, and its depth has been a huge factor in its success. Anyone who doubted Baylor before Tuesday would be foolish to question the Bears now.

What the loss means for Kansas State: Frank Martin's squad has no reason to hang its head after this one. The Wildcats are a legitimate threat to end Kansas' streak of seven consecutive Big 12 titles. They might not lose again at Bramlage Coliseum, and they are gritty and tough enough to win on the road. This could be Martin's finest coaching job yet, and Kansas State is only going to get better.

Up next: Baylor hosts Oklahoma State on Saturday in Waco, Texas. Kansas State hits the road for a tilt with Oklahoma that same day.

Jackson helps keep Baylor undefeated

December, 29, 2011

DALLAS -- Forget the national-player-of-the-year candidate.

And don’t be overly concerned with the freshman who’s projected as an NBA lottery pick, or the veteran senior who scores half of his baskets on dunks.

Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy might form one of the most imposing frontcourts in the nation. But all week long, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury told his squad that stopping the trio wasn’t the key to beating the Baylor Bears.

Pierre Jackson is the key to their team,” Stansbury said. “He’s the guy that makes them go.”

It was certainly hard to argue that point Wednesday, when Jackson -- the Bears’ diminutive 5-foot-10 point guard -- came through for Baylor yet again.

With 22 seconds remaining, Jackson beat Bulldogs guard Dee Bost off the dribble and streaked through the lane for an uncontested layup that propelled the No. 7 Bears to a 54-52 victory over 14th-ranked Mississippi State at American Airlines Arena.

At 13-0, Baylor is off to its best start in school history. The Bears are one of just four remaining undefeated teams in the country. Mississippi State fell to 12-2 after losing for the first time since Nov. 9.

“That was probably one of the toughest teams we’ll play all year,” said Jackson, who scored a game-high 14 points. “Our chemistry is really good right now. We’ve got to keep getting better.”

Wednesday wasn’t the first time that Jackson -- who earned national junior college player-of-the-year honors at the College of Southern Idaho last season -- has come through for Baylor in the clutch.

[+] EnlargePierre Jackson
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPierre Jackson swoops in for Baylor's winning layup against Mississippi State.
He scored 23 points and hit a 3-pointer that forced overtime in last week’s victory over West Virginia, when he reeled off eight consecutive points during a stretch from late in the second half through the first 70 seconds of the extra period. And he blocked a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer in Baylor’s 86-83 win at BYU on Dec. 17.

In short, Jackson and Boston College transfer Brady Heslip have completely reshaped a Baylor squad that missed the NCAA tournament last season because of a porous backcourt that, at times, could barely get the ball up the court. The twosome combined for 21 of the Bears’ 34 first-half points against MSU.

“Those two killed us,” Stansbury said. “Like I said, people can talk about Jones and those other guys all they want. But Jackson is the reason Baylor is so good.”

That’s not to say Jackson and the Bears are without flaws. Baylor found a way to win Wednesday despite turning in one of its sloppiest performances of the season.

The Bears shot just 21 percent after intermission and missed all eight of their 3-point attempts. Baylor also clanked three of its five foul shots in the final 3 minutes -- yet it managed to emerge victorious.

“When you can shoot 21 percent in the second half and still beat a top-15 team, it shows that you really defended and rebounded well,” BU coach Scott Drew said. “We weren’t very good rebounding early in the year. We made it a focus after the BYU game and we’ve improved.”

Indeed, Baylor outrebounded Mississippi State 40-32 and came up with some huge stops down the stretch. Moments before Jackson’s winning basket, the Bears forced Bost into a terrible shot against his momentum on the other end. The Bulldogs had a chance to tie or win after Jackson’s layup, but they couldn’t get a good look before Rodney Hood went up for a guarded jumper with 6 seconds left. Hood’s shot was blocked, and Jackson made a heady play by batting the ball toward the other end of the court as time expired.

“The toughest thing for young players is ... when you’re not scoring, you don’t want to play defense,” Drew said. “For us, to shoot 21 percent and still play defense shows a lot of [character]. I’m proud of our guys.”

The victory in Dallas -- Baylor’s first this season against a top-25 opponent -- could have long-reaching effects. Drew touted after the game that his team is the only one in the country with wins against six top-50 opponents, according to the Sagarin ratings.

“It’s a win that resonates on your resume throughout the rest of the season,” Drew said.

It should also do wonders for Baylor’s confidence, as the Bears likely won’t face many teams in the Big 12 as tough as the Bulldogs. No team in the league has as good of a frontcourt as Mississippi State’s tandem of Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie. Bost is regarded as one of the nation’s top point guards and Hood probably won’t be in school longer than two years before jumping to the NBA.

Baylor has plenty of future pros on its roster, too, but its biggest strength continues to be its depth. Jones and Acy combined for just 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting. But it didn’t matter thanks to players such as Jackson, Heslip and Miller, who had 12 points and 6 boards. Nine Baylor players saw at least seven minutes of action Wednesday, and seven of them played 19 minutes or more.

“We came down here and went nose-to-nose-to-nose with them,” Stansbury said. “We took a team averaging 80 points and held it to 54. It was a hell of a game. These were two pretty good teams. We’ll take a lot of positives from this and get better from it, and I’m sure Baylor will, too.”

Tough Baylor hands BYU rare home loss

December, 17, 2011

For one scary moment, Perry Jones III feared he was done for a long time.

Baylor's big man was writhing on the court in pain and wasn’t sure he could come back into the game, let alone how much of the season might be missed.

Jones had knocked knees with BYU’s Brandon Davies atop the perimeter on a drive with 1:26 left and his seventh-ranked Bears up 84-83. Without its star forward, Baylor looked like it might lose not only the game, but its shot at a glorious season.

“I was scared,’’ Jones told ESPN.com by phone Saturday. “I couldn’t move my leg on my own. I thought I tore something.’’

But Jones quickly made a decision while on the bench.

He wanted back in.

“I didn’t want to let my team down,’’ Jones said. “I just wanted to ignore the pain, get to the weak side and get the rebound. I was there at the right time.’’

Jones’ tip-in follow with 21 seconds left gave Baylor an 86-83 lead.

“That was huge,’’ BU coach Scott Drew said. “What was really special is that normally a player gets injured, limps around and doesn’t make the big play. He got the big play.’’

Brigham Young had one more chance to tie the game when Davies had a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But Pierre Jackson, a 5-foot-10 guard, came from the side and blocked the 6-9 forward’s shot.

“I was closest to him,’’ Jackson said after the Bears' 86-83 victory. “I know I can jump pretty high. I wanted to contest it but I happened to block it. It was a big block, and it saved the game for us.’’

Drew said Jackson is as athletic a player as Baylor has and that he wasn’t surprised Jackson found a way to block Davies’ shot.

Jones, a clear contender for All-America status and Big 12 player of the year, finished with a career-high 28 points and eight rebounds, while Jackson added 13 off the bench. Brady Heslip made six of 10 shots from beyond the arc and finished with 18 for the Bears.

Baylor hadn’t been tested yet this season, blowing out all its competition, even in the one previous road game at Northwestern.

[+] EnlargePerry Jones III
Douglas C. Pizac/US PresswireBaylor's Perry Jones III led all scorers with 28 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists.
So Drew wasn’t sure how his team would handle going into the Marriott Center, a notorious graveyard for BYU opponents.

“You’re not going to find a tougher atmosphere in college,’’ Drew said. “They were 48-2 in their last 50 games. This definitely gets us ready for Big 12 play and tells us a lot about our team. It showed we know how to execute at the end of games. Toughness is required to win on the road. We weren’t ready early on, and we got dominated on the glass.’’

The Cougars added UCLA transfer Matt Carlino for this game, and he tied Davies for the team lead with 18 points. But Baylor did have length, size and depth advantage in the frontcourt with BYU missing sixth man Stephen Rogers.

However, it was Cal transfer guard Gary Franklin who played a key role Saturday. He made two 3s in 12 minutes, but Drew said Franklin’s defense was just as crucial.

“Normally you like to bring in a player that you add midseason for a home game,’’ Drew said. “But he was tremendous. He guarded very well.’’

It's pretty clear the Bears are more than capable of competing for the Big 12 title and a deep run in March, possibly long enough to get to New Orleans.

But there still are some potholes ahead. Baylor plays Saint Mary’s and West Virginia in Las Vegas next week, and then squares off with Mississippi State on Dec. 28 in Dallas.

The length of Arnett Moultrie and size of Renardo Sidney will certainly test Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy, while Heslip, Franklin, Jackson and A.J. Walton will have their hands full with Dee Bost and Rodney Hood.

So plenty of tests remain for the unbeaten Bears. But one of the biggest of all was passed in Provo.

“We got through the adversity together,’’ Jones said. “We just have to play smarter and play better together.’’

3-point shot: Baylor relishes BYU matchup

December, 16, 2011
Baylor coach Scott Drew said he relishes the idea of playing at BYU’s Marriott Center on Saturday for what will easily be the Bears’ toughest game to date. The Cougars have been nearly unbeatable, with one loss in the past 49 games at the Marriott Center. BYU coach Dave Rose said the Cougars will have to pick up the pace to get space on rebounding against the Bears.

BYU likely won’t be able to rebound in the halfcourt against Baylor’s length (see Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy). This game has to be up and down for BYU to have a shot. Meanwhile, the Bears get Cal transfer guard Gary Franklin eligible for this game, deepening an already solid perimeter.