Thursday, April 4, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Baylor 74, Iowa 54
By Kieran Darcy
What it means: Baylor is your 2013 NIT champion.
The Bears are the first Big 12 team ever to win this tournament, thanks to their 74-54 victory over Iowa on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Baylor (23-14, 9-9 Big 12) had a disappointing regular season. The Bears were ranked No. 19 in the country in the preseason, coming off a berth in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight a year ago. They didn't even make the Big Dance this time around but finished the season on a high note.
Iowa (25-13, 9-9 Big Ten) was on the bubble on Selection Sunday, didn't make the NCAA cut, but collected four wins and some valuable experience the past couple of weeks.
The turning point: After Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble scored the first bucket of the game, Baylor scored nine straight points, and led the rest of the first half. It took the Bears' leading scorer, Pierre Jackson, almost 15 minutes to collect his first point. But Baylor still led 27-22 at intermission. The Hawkeyes shot just 7-for-28 (25 percent) in the first half, and committed eight turnovers.
Iowa cut the deficit to one early in the second half, 28-27, thanks to five quick points by Eric May. But Baylor answered with seven points in a row to reassert control, and soon turned the game into a rout. The Bears pushed the lead past 20 for the first time on a Cory Jefferson two-hand slam with 7:04 remaining. The rest was garbage time.
Star watch: Jackson scored just four points in the first half, shooting 1-for-6. The second half was a different story. The senior finished with 17 points and 10 assists, and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. Jefferson scored a game-high 23 points, and Isaiah Austin added 15.
Mike Gesell scored a team-high 13 points off the bench for Iowa, while Aaron White chipped in 12. Marble finished with just six points.
Number crunch: It just wasn't Iowa's night offensively. The Hawkeyes missed open shots from the perimeter, and several chippies around the rim -- they were clearly bothered by the presence of the 7-foot-1 Austin (five blocked shots) in the paint. For the game, Iowa shot 18-for-69 from the field (26.4 percent), including 5-for-24 from beyond the arc (20.8), while Baylor shot 26-for-48 (54.2 percent).
What's next: That's the final college basketball game of the season at Madison Square Garden. Enjoy the Final Four, and we'll see you next year.