The Baylor Bears won their first ever NIT title with a 74-54 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Not a fun game to watch for the casual fan, the Bears put on a defensive master class. They got out on the perimeter and caused fits for Iowa shooters all game long.
After 20 minutes, it looked like fans were going to be in for a long second half.
The two played a very slow-paced, dull first half, combining for only 49 points on 11-of-53 shooting. While the game wasn't very exciting, fans were treated to some very intense, defensively strong basketball.
With the way Iowa was outplayed in the first 20 minutes, it felt like only a matter of time before Baylor would build on their five-point halftime lead.
That's exactly what happened. Slowly but surely, the Bears opened the game up and put some distance between themselves and the Hawkeyes. Iowa cut the lead to two with 17:56 to go in the game, but then the Bears went on an 11-2 run and didn't look back.
Over time, Iowa couldn't hit its shots, while Baylor remained extremely efficient in the offensive end. That turned out to be the biggest difference.
In his last collegiate game, Pierre Jackson made sure to go out with a bang. He was both the dynamic scorer and facilitator for his teammates. He finished with a double-double, recording 17 points and 10 assists.
It was the duo of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson who stole the show, though.
Jefferson was the leading scorer for the game, finishing with 23 points, while adding seven rebounds.
Austin did a little bit of everything. He recorded 15 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists. What doesn't show up in the box score is how he got up and down the court extremely well. One play he'd be swatting a layup off the glass, the next he'd be on the offensive end ready to finish.
Iowa shot the ball slightly better in the second half, but it just couldn't handle the strong perimeter defense of Baylor. The Hawkeyes only finished shooting 26.5 percent as a team. It's almost impossible to win a Division I game when you miss 50 of your shots.
Mike Gesell was Iowa's leading scorer, coming off the bench to score 13 points. Aaron White had the most points of any Hawkeyes starter, with 12 points.
Roy Devyn Marble came in as the Hawkeyes' leading scorer, averaging 15.2 points a game. Baylor managed to shackle him for all 40 minutes. Marble had only six points after hitting three of his 12 attempts from the field.
Steve Bunin of CSN-Houston noted the history Baylor made Thursday night:
Hey @espnstatsinfo - if Baylor holds on vs Iowa, they'll win 1st postseason tourney in school history & become 1st Big 12 team to win NIT— SteveBuninCSN (@SteveBunin) April 5, 2013
David Smoak of 1660 ESPN in Waco tried to give his best guess to Iowa's shooting percentage close to the basket.
I might be off one or two, but Iowa is now 0-123 shooting around the rim.Baylor leads by 11.— David Smoak (@DavidSmoak) April 5, 2013
Winning the NIT wasn't enough for Jackson. He had to stamp his place in the Baylor record books as ESPN Stats and Info revealed:
Pierre Jackson now has 707 points this season, setting the Baylor single-season record for points.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2013
Reid Forgrave of FOXSports.com thinks that should Austin stay, he and Jefferson would have no equal in terms of a frontcourt tandem:
So is there ANY chance Isaiah Austin comes back for year 2? Because another year of him + Jefferson = top frontcourt in nation.— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) April 5, 2013
CBSSports.com congratulates Baylor on finishing the season strong considering how the regular season unfolded:
After a disappointing season, Baylor ends 2013 on a high note with an NIT Championship. The Bears beat Iowa 74-54.— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) April 5, 2013
It was a completely deserved win for the Bears. This could be a very scary team next season should it manage to hold on to the key players who aren't graduating. Keep an eye out on the Bears this offseason.