Bears’ tournament run, season comes to a close against No.1 Wildcats

No. 55 junior guard Pierre Jackson dunks the ball during the NCAA Elite 8 round at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. on Friday, Mar. 23, 2012 against the University of Kentucky. The Bears left the court with a 82-70 loss to the Wildcats. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

With a minute left in the NCAA Elite 8 round against the University of Kentucky, No. 22 junior guard A.J. Walton places his hand on No. 4 senior forward Quincy Acy's head as he takes the bench for his final game with the Baylor Bears in the Georgia Dome on Friday, Mar. 23, 2012. The Bears left the court with a 82-70 loss to the Wildcats. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

by Greg DeVries
Sports Writer

Baylor’s post-season run ended in the Elite Eight to the Kentucky Wildcats 70-82. Senior Quincy Acy led the Bears in his final game in a Baylor uniform with 22 points and eight rebounds. Acy was also named to the South Region’s All-Tournament Team.

“I don’t think we played our best game. I give them credit for causing some of that,” head coach Scott Drew said. “When we lost to Duke [in 2010], that Duke team was a great team, but this Kentucky team was better in my opinion.”

Baylor started the game by taking Kentucky out of their comfort zone. The Bears were slowing the pace of the game and forcing the Wildcats to play a half-court style. Baylor was also getting open looks by moving the ball.

Eventually, Kentucky’s length started to disrupt Baylor’s shooters. Baylor ended the half shooting just 32 percent despite the hot start. These missed shots led to long rebounds for Kentucky. The Wildcats used these to start their fast transition game.

Baylor scored just five points in the final seven minutes of the half. Meanwhile, Kentucky was in the middle of a 23-5 run. The teams went into halftime with Kentucky leading 42-22.

“We weren’t making shots tonight that we usually make,” senior Anthony Jones said. “We missed a lot of point-blank layups, wide open threes. We just weren’t making the shots we usually make.”

Turnovers and fouls were largely to blame for the deficit. Baylor’s starters were whistled for 7 fouls. Kentucky capitalized on the free-throw line making 7 of 10 free throws in the first half. In this time, Baylor also turned the ball over six more times than the Wildcats.

By the end of the game, Baylor was whistled for 32 fouls. Kentucky made 30 of 44 free throws off of these fouls.

“They did a good job of getting fouls and getting to the line. We just had to play better defense,” Jackson said.

He finished with 21 points and five assists.

Baylor played well in the second half. Sophomore Perry Jones III finished the first half with just two points, but caught fire in the second to finish with 17.

“I just did my best to be aggressive for my team,” Jones III said. “My teammates were telling me to just do my best to establish position on the inside and just have an inside game.”

The Bears were able to claw their way back to make it a 10-point game, but Kentucky’s first-half run was too much to overcome.

“We’re not a team to lay down. We thought we could come back even until the last second,” Acy said.

Acy, Jones, and Fred Ellis, the seniors on the basketball team, all finish their careers at Baylor with 100 wins, the most of any senior class in school history.

“This program has come a long way,” Jones said. “Two out of the last three years, we’ve been in the Regional Finals, and there’s not a lot of programs that can say that. Especially when you consider it’s Baylor and how far we’ve come. I think the program is going to continue to get better and better.”