by Greg DeVries
Sophomore Perry Jones III finished with 11 rebounds and a career high 31 points to help the Bears take down the Kansas State Wildcats 82-74 in the first game of the Big 12 tournament Thursday at the Sprint Center.
“[We’re] pleased with how the guys played,” head coach Scott Drew said. “K-State is a very good team. I think they’re going to have a lot of success in the NCAA Tournament.”
Both teams started the first half strong. For the most part, the Bears and Wildcats exchanged baskets. Baylor began to create some distance on the scoreboard with 6:18 left to go.
Sophomore Brady Heslip scored six points in a row to start an offensive surge for the Bears. Baylor finished the half leading by nine, 45-36. Heslip finished the game with 15 points. A lot of Heslip’s success came with a three-guard lineup.
“I think [the lineup] works well for us just because we’re all different and we all bring something different to the table,” Heslip said. “[Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton] can really play defense. And coach told us we really got to guard today, and that’s what we did. And the three-guard lineup allows us to be fast, but also to guard at the same time.”
Jones III finished the first half with 21 points and eight rebounds on 8 of 8 shooting from the field.
“The biggest compliment that we can give Perry is, as good a player and as good a talent that he is, he’s a better teammate,” Drew said. “Everybody on the team loves Perry. You love coaching Perry because he has a great attitude. It’s always team first.”
This was Jones’ first Big 12 tournament after being suspended at the end of last season.
“My teammates reminded me when I got on the plane. They gave me a round of applause for being able to show up here and being able to play,” Jones III said. “Other than that, it was all laughs and jokes.”
The Bears held Wildcat junior Rodney McGruder to just five points on 2 of 7 shooting. McGruder, a player that had thrived against the Bears this season, finished with 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting.
Baylor also led the rebounding battle 18-14 at halftime. The Bears finished with 32 rebounds, six more than the Wildcats.
Hot shooting was the key for the Bears in the second half. Baylor shot 62.5 percent from the floor. Baylor shot nearly 57 percent from the field in the game. Four of the starters finished in double figures for the Bears.
Junior A.J Walton recorded 11 points on 5 of 6 shooting off of the bench and had four steals. Junior Pierre Jackson was the only starter that finished shooting under 50 percent from the field, and he scored 13 points with eight assists.
Defensively, Baylor allowed Kansas state to shoot nearly 50% from the field. The Wildcats made 27 shots on 55 attempts. Baylor forced 13 turnovers and blocked four shots.
Baylor will next play at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Kansas and Texas A&M. Since Kansas is the No.1 seed in the tournament, Baylor will focus on what they can do to beat the Jayhawks for the first time this season.
When asked what the Bears can do to beat Kansas, Jones III emphasized defense.
“Defend. Defend and rebound. They’re a great offensive and defensive team. They rebound really well. We’ve got to be able to rebound and get a lot of stops, as many stops as possible, because they can get on runs and it can get ugly,” Jones III said.