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Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Baylor 76, BYU 70

By Kieran Darcy

What it means: Baylor is one win away from its first NIT title.

The Bears defeated BYU in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, 76-70, in a game that was tight until the final few minutes (see below).

Baylor (22-14, 9-9 Big 12) had a disappointing regular season, finishing sixth in the Big 12 after being picked to finish second in the preseason. But the Bears are ending the season in fine form.

BYU (24-12, 10-6 WCC) failed in its quest win the NIT for the third time. The Cougars also won the tourney in 1951 and 1966.

The turning point: The first half of this game was tight: The lead changed hands six times, but neither team went ahead by more than four points. With the game tied at 33 in the closing seconds, Taurean Prince tipped in a rebound to give Baylor a 35-33 advantage at intermission.

The second half unfolded like the first -- lots of lead changes early, with neither team able to separate from the other. Leading 57-54 with less than five minutes remaining, the Bears finally asserted control, thanks to Pierre Jackson. The 5-foot-10 senior, who was averaging 19.7 points per game, scored seven straight points -- capped off by a trey -- to make it 64-54 with 3:24 left. BYU's Matt Carlino drained three consecutive shots from beyond the arc down the stretch to bring the Cougars within three, 71-68, but they would get no closer.

Star watch: Jackson scored a team-high 24 points for Baylor -- 15 of them coming in the second half -- and also had 10 assists. Junior forward Cory Jefferson scored 21 points, and freshman center Isaiah Austin had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Sophomore guard Tyler Haws scored a game-high 25 points for BYU. Carlino added 19.

Number crunch: BYU was shooting 34.1 percent from 3-point range coming into the game, but shot just 25 percent from downtown (5-for-20) on Tuesday. The percentage would have been far worse if not for Carlino's late hot streak. Also, Baylor committed just seven turnovers on the night.

What's next: Baylor will play the winner of the second semifinal, Maryland versus Iowa, in the championship game at 9 p.m. Thursday.

BYU heads home to Provo, Utah, and looks forward to next season.