Bears keep NCAA bid within reach
By Chris Derrett
Baylor’s NCAA tournament hopes are hanging by a thread. It’s just a thread, but after Saturday, the Bears are still alive.
Freshman Perry Jones III and senior LaceDarius Dunn each scored 16 points as Baylor staved off a late Texas A&M charge to beat the Aggies, 58-51, at the Ferrell Center.
The win gives Baylor (18-10, 7-7) a season sweep of A&M (22-6, 9-5). The Aggies are the only two wins the Bears have over ranked opponents this season, victories that could be crucial in the Bears’ last effort towards an NCAA bid.
“All our games are much-needed from this point on. We’ve got to just defend and rebound like Coach [Scott] Drew tells us. And like it showed today, we’ll get a victory,” Jones III said.
Dunn did not have a prolific night on scoreboard, but he answered when his team needed him most. After back-to-back Aggie layups cut the Bears’ advantage to 41-39 and forced a 30-second timeout, Dunn nailed a 3-pointer from the corner on an inbounds play to give his team more breathing room.
A trey from Naji Hibbert later pulled A&M to within 48-43, prompting another Drew timeout, and again Dunn connected from behind the arc. Baylor’s lead would not dip below six points again.
“When I’ve got a chance to get a good look, me taking it, whether I had missed two or missed three in a row, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got teammates telling me to keep shooting the ball,” Dunn said.
Dunn finished 5 of 16, 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Baylor’s defense Saturday was unlike it has offered against any Big 12 opponent. A&M’s .352 field goal percentage is the lowest among Baylor’s Big 12 opponents this season, and its 19 made field goals tie a conference-season low for Baylor opponents as well.
“Their zone was fantastic. It felt like they had six guys out there, and they were everywhere,” Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon said.
The Bears’ zone defense, which they played the entire game, also produced eight blocks. Juniors J’mison “BoBo” Morgan and Quincy Acy each swatted three shots.
“The intensity was high. Everybody was just laying it out on the line. I still think we could be even better on defense,” Acy said.
“Once we all buy into coach Drew’s schemes, we’re going to be pretty good,” Acy joked with Drew sitting next to him.
Acy propelled himself to No. 4 on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays with a monstrous second half dunk. Sophomore A.J. Walton found Acy on an inbound alley-oop that Acy finished with his patented, two-handed authority.
Morgan helped establish the Bears on the defensive end. Two minutes into the game he blocked Ray Turner twice on the same possession and grabbed a defensive rebound that led to a Walton layup. A minute into the second half, Morgan rejected David Loubeau for his final block of the night.
“[It’s] so good to see his hard work paying off. And defensively, he really set the tone at the beginning of the game,” Drew said.
Bears battle Okla. State today
Baylor next travels to Stillwater, Okla., for a 6 p.m. matchup today with Oklahoma State on ESPN2.
“We’ve got to win, no matter what,” Jones III said Monday.
Although Dunn is the Bears’ only senior, he said the entire team is aware of the sense of urgency.
“I don’t have to prep [my teammates] up and keep telling them what we’ve got to do or what we don’t have to know,” Dunn said.
The Bears’ final chance to make a case for an NCAA bid comes at 8 p.m. Saturday against Texas in Waco.