By Daniel Hill
The Baylor Bears defeated the Long Beach State 49ers 112-66 Wednesday at the Ferrell Center and advanced to the second round of the NIT.
“I thought it was a great way to start a tournament,” head coach Scott Drew said. “Obviously we did a lot of things well, starting with 31 assists and only 14 turnovers, shooting 63 percent and holding them to 33 percent. I thought we played like a weight was off of our shoulders and we really made a lot of extra passes and played well. In the last two games at home, I think we’ve really played well at home.”
Junior guard Brady Heslip put on a shooting clinic and was the Bears’ leading scorer with 26 points off of eight 3-pointers and two free throws. Heslip buried six first-half 3-pointers to propel Baylor to a commanding 57-34 half-time lead over the Long Beach State 49ers.
“I always look for [Heslip] when I’m in the game,” senior guard A.J. Walton said. “I know he’s out there running and he hit the first one early in the corner and I knew it was going to be a good one. When he hits his first one, it’s always going to be a good night. That was my job to facilitate while Pierre Jackson wasn’t in and he was able to get open and move around. We had penetration and I kept finding him. We all kept finding him.”
Heslip shot six of eight from downtown and tacked on two free throws for 20 first-half points.
“Well, when you’re winning like that, it’s always fun,” Heslip said. “It was great. I love it when teams play zone. I can’t say that enough.”
Senior guard Pierre Jackson came in off the bench after he was late to the pregame meeting. Junior guard Gary Franklin started in Jackson’s place. Franklin played against one of his former high school teammates and scored 11 points while totaling six assists. Jackson ended up scoring 11 points as well and also had six assists.
Aside from Heslip, Franklin and Jackson, four more Bears ended up in the double-digits in scoring. Junior forward Cory Jefferson had 15 points and eight rebounds. Freshman center Isaiah Austin posted 13 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Deuce Bello racked up 10 points, including a layup and a highlight alley-oop slam-dunk.
Freshman froward Taurean Prince dominated the last twelve minutes of the game by scoring 14 points and displaying a full repertoire of offensive skill. Prince stepped out and buried a 3-pointer and also held an edge in the paint with seven rebounds. Prince did all of this with just 12 minutes of playing time.
“Our mentality coming into the game was that it could be our last one,” Walton said. “We just have to come out there and have fun no matter who was out there on the floor. Just go out there and give 100 percent and today everybody did.”
As a team, the Bears were 16-23 from beyond the 3-point line for a shooting percentage of 69.6 percent.
With the Bears posting 112 points, the game was a blur with the pace of the game always at full throttle.
“Obviously, we like to play an up-and-down game and we have a team that likes to get out and run,” Jefferson said.
Baylor is scheduled to host the winner of Wednesday night’s matchup between Arizona State and Detroit. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday at the Ferrell Center.
“If Arizona State wins, if Pierre Jackson has a twin as far as speed, Arizona State’s point guard would be that,” Drew said. “He’s one of the best point guards in the country and they have a 7-foot-2, 250-pound big man, a monster.”