By Daniel Hill
After defeating Long Beach State 112-66 Wednesday in the first round of the NIT, the No. 2 seed Baylor will host the No. 3 seed Arizona State Sun Devils at 7 p.m. tonight at the Ferrell Center.
“We’re excited because we won the first game but we don’t really know much about Arizona State yet, other than that they are a great team,” junior guard Brady Heslip said.
Head coach Scott Drew said it was just nice to play someone outside of the Big 12 Conference.
“Playing in the Big 12, I think it was nice to just play somebody else,” Drew said. “I think every year every conference argues which is the best conference, and I go back to the last five years, the most pros and the most lottery picks. It’s refreshing to see somebody different and I think everybody played like that too.”
With such a large lead against Long Beach State, the Bears utilized the opportunity to rest their key players to help them have more energy for Friday night’s contest.
“That’s something that we took into account,” Drew said. “We didn’t want to get anyone injured, and we wanted to have everybody as fresh as we could because we’re playing in another 48 hours.”
The Bears will look to their senior guards A.J. Walton and Pierre Jackson to help the team protect home court on tonight against ASU.
“Coach is always telling us that the toughest game of a tournament is always the first one,” Walton said. “We have two more at home, so that’s a plus. Coach Drew does a great job of helping us recover and playing different players. Being a senior, me and Pierre Jackson can help the young guys and tell them what to do and make sure they’ll be ready to play Friday.”
“Home court advantage is so important in this postseason,” Drew said. “I know Friday’s game at 7 o’clock is going to be a war and it’ll be two great teams no matter who we end up playing.”
Arizona State has a freshman point guard who closely resembles Jackson in both height and style of play. Jahii Carson is listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds and uses his quickness, just like Jackson.
Carson averages 18.4 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Sun Devils. Jackson, listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, averages 19.5 points and 6.4 assists per game for Baylor. Drew knows that Arizona State’s game plan starts with its star freshman point guard.
“He’s one of the best point guards in the country and they have a 7-foot-2, 250 lb. big man [junior center Jordan Bachynski], a monster,” Drew said. “They are a team that a lot of people thought were going to go to the NCAA and then they lost a couple of tough ones down the stretch so they’re a really good team and that’ll be a really great game. Anyone that’s seen Arizona State, knows that they play fast, they play off of ball screens and everything starts with their point guard, so I think this is two teams to make sure you put your contacts in because it’s going to be a blur out there.”