by Greg DeVries
Baylor men’s basketball advanced to the Elite Eight with a win over the Xavier Musketeers, 75-70.
Senior Quincy Acy led the Bears with 20 points and 15 rebounds on 8-11 shooting. Junior Pierre Jackson and sophomores Perry Jones III and Brady Heslip all finished in double figures for the Bears.
“[Advancing to the Elite 8] feels good considering last year. Last year was a letdown,” Jones III said. “It’s exciting to be in the Elite Eight, especially experiencing it with the guys that have been here before. We’re just looking forward to go a little further and make a little history.”
The Bears opened the game strong with a 12-2 run, which forced Xavier to take a timeout. Xavier was having trouble dealing with Baylor’s length and turned the ball over frequently to start.
“They came out, and they knocked us back. They put us on our heels early,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “When they’re that talented, you can only do so much.”
The Bears’ early offensive success came from good ball movement and easy shots. Jones III attacked the glass on both ends. He eventually cooled off and finished the first half with just six points and three rebounds, two of which came on offensive put backs.
This ball movement allowed many players to get touches. At halftime, seven of nine Baylor players that took the floor were able to put the ball in the basket.
Baylor contained Tu Holloway well in the first half. Holloway only recorded six points and one assist. The problem was 7-footer Kenny Frease. At the beginning of the half, the Bears denied entry passes to the big man. When he did get the ball in the post, the help defense was able to get steals or blocks.
This all changed after a flagrant foul was called on Acy. Frease turned this into a four-point possession, swinging the momentum in Xavier’s direction and allowing the Musketeers to get back into the game.
Frease finished with 18 points, but was only able to grab three rebounds
“We outrebounded [them] 35-29, but we’ve done a little bit better as far as getting second-chance points,” head coach Scott Drew said. “Hopefully we can do that in Sunday’s game.”
Baylor and Xavier exchanged blows for much of the second half. Acy and Jones III took charge of the game by throwing down dunk after dunk. The game seemed out of reach for the Musketeers when Jackson hit two free throws with 1:41 left in the game to put the Bears up by 12.
Xavier would not go away without a fight, however. A three-point play by Holloway followed by a 3-pointer by Justin Martin made it a six-point game with 1:21 to go. Holloway and Acy exchanged pairs of free throws before Holloway made a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to cut Baylor’s lead to 68-72.
Holloway finished with a game-high 22 points but was just 6 of 13 from the field and 1 of 5 from the 3-point arc. As a team, Xavier finished the game 3 of 15 from the arc.
In the final 18 seconds, Heslip went 4 of 4 from the free-throw line to put the game out of reach.
Baylor will play Kentucky at 1:20 p.m. CDT on Sunday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. The regional final game will be televised on CBS.