By Stephen Hawkins
Pierre Jackson and the Baylor Bears got exactly the kind of grinding game they expected from TCU.
The Bears finally broke through after halftime for a 51-40 victory Saturday night in the first meeting in more than 10 years between the in-state rivals, which are now Big 12 foes.
“We played better team ball in the second half and got into transition,” Jackson said. “Coach told us that they like to milk the clock and use every bit of it.”
Cory Jefferson had consecutive baskets to start the tie-breaking run, including a two-handed slam dunk when he quickly regained the ball after getting a shot blocked. Those shots ignited a 14-2 run that put the Bears (11-4, 3-0 Big 12) ahead to stay.
Before the dunk, Jefferson’s floater with 15 minutes left broke a 28-all tie. By the time Rico Gathers tipped in a missed 3-pointer only 4½ minutes later, Baylor had stretched its lead to 42-30.
The Horned Frogs (9-7, 0-3) came into the game leading the Big 12 and 10th nationally allowing only 55.6 points a game. While even better than that, it wasn’t enough against the bigger Bears with the inside duo of Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, the 7-foot-1 freshman standout.
“We knew it was going to be one of those grind-it-out,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Earlier in the year against some teams that made really made you guard for 35 seconds, we didn’t do as well and we didn’t carry over the defensive intensity. Tonight, we missed shots, but we guarded for 40 minutes, we rebounded for 40 minutes. As long as you do that, you give yourself a chance to win.”
Jefferson finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots while Austin had 10 points, eight after halftime, with eight rebounds. Jackson, the senior point guard, had 11 points and six assists.
The most impressive rebound by Jefferson was when Adrick McKinney blocked his shot, but the big Baylor forward got it right back and slammed it home.
“Obviously, Baylor is a very, very, very talented basketball team. They cause a lot of problems with their length, their skill level,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said. “I thought my guys did a very good job going into the game understanding what we needed to do to have a chance to have a victory. But their strength and their athleticism sort of wore us out there for about a five-minute period in the second half.”
TCU had a 22-21 lead at halftime, but that was quickly erased when Austin scored inside to start the second half. That was the first of five lead changes in the first 4 minutes of the half.
Kyan Anderson’s jumper tied the game at 28 with 15:18 left, less than a minute after his turnover when he lost the handle of the ball that ricocheted off one of the referees out of bounds.
It was the 171st meeting between the two teams whose campuses are only about 90 miles apart, but the first since December 2002 when TCU won its fourth straight in the series. It was their first meeting since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 this season. They play again in two weeks in Fort Worth.
TCU had two shot-clock violations in the first half of a game that was sloppy from the start.
At the first media timeout just more than 4 minutes into the game, Baylor led 5-2 and was only 2-of-7 shooting. TCU had missed all four of its shots.
On the opening possession of the game, the Bears missed two inside shots before Jackson wound up with the ball outside and fed back to Jefferson for a slam. Their only other basket in that opening stretch was a 3-point by A.J. Walton after Jackson penetrated inside and passed back to the left corner.
Garlon Green, TCU’s best shooter, had two fouls in the first 3 minutes, to along with a jumper that didn’t hit the rim.
TCU missed its first six shots and had four turnovers before Anderson’s 3-pointer from wing just before the second timeout 8 minutes into the game, when the Frogs trailed only 7-6.
The Bears twice in the first half led by six, including Walton going the length of the court for a spinning driving layup for a 16-10 lead with 8 minutes left. He came away with the ball when Austin blocked McKinney’s shot, but TCU then scored eight points in a row for its first lead.
Next for Baylor is a showdown among early Big 12 leaders, at sixth-ranked Kansas (14-1, 2-0) on Monday night. And it should be more of the kind of fast-pace game the Bears prefer.
“That’s what makes the Big 12 so fun to prepare because you go from fast-paced game with Texas Tech to a grind-it-out more half-court game against TCU to back up and down,” Drew said. “I can tell you which one the players prefer.”