Iowa vs Baylor: Bears Spoil Hawks' NIT Title Dream

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Iowa vs Baylor: Bears Spoil Hawks' NIT Title Dream
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Iowa freshman guard Mike Gesell being defended by Baylor senior guard A.J. Walton.

The Iowa Hawkeyes National Invitation Tournament title hopes ended Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, as Baylor earned its first NIT title in school history, 74-54.

Iowa was simply outplayed by Baylor and struggled to contain Pierre Jackson, Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin on the defensive end. The Hawkeyes led just once in the game, which occurred at the 18:39 mark of the first half when they led 2-0. 

Iowa was out of control offensively in the first half. They moved the ball too quickly up court and made costly mistakes, which resulted in eight turnovers. Even though the Hawks struggled on offense, they were down just 27-22 at the end of the first half. 

The Hawkeyes hung in the game for the first few minutes of the second half, but after Jackson drained a three-pointer with 16:43 remaining, the game seemed to be out of reach.  

Jackson scored 13 points in the second half and recorded his fourth consecutive double-double with 17 points and 10 assists. Jefferson also caught fire by recording 19 of his 23 points in the second half.

Baylor was more physical down low, with Austin leading the way with nine rebounds, and much quicker in transition offensively. The Hawks were not quick enough to shutdown a talented Baylor squad that under-performed this season. 

Not only did Iowa have trouble defensively, they shot just 26.1 percent from the field, where as Baylor shot an impressive 54.2 percent. It’s difficult to win games when you have that low of a shooting percentage against a team of Baylor's caliber. 

The Bears were expected to be a Big 12 title contender this season, but underachieved and lost multiple games they should have won. An NIT title was a bittersweet ending for Jackson and his Baylor Bears.

Jackson will likely be drafted into the NBA come June. 

Unlike Baylor, who had higher expectations this season, the Hawkeyes were not projected to accomplish much this year. They were in a Big Ten conference that boasted five heavyweight teams, including Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. 

Iowa finished the season 25-13 and proved to be a program on the rise under third year head coach Fran McCaffery. The Hawkeyes are a young team with a lot of talent. Leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White will return next season, along with talented freshman, Mike Gesell, who continues to impress in every game he plays in. 

The Hawkeyes are going to be much tougher than people think next season and will be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. 

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