Pierre Jackson

Baylor too much for Iowa in comfortable NIT title game victory


For some teams a trip to the Postseason NIT is viewed as a punishment of sorts, and those teams tend to see their seasons end in quick fashion.

For others the 32-team tournament offers a second chance of sorts, an opportunity to play more games with an eye towards next season while also chasing a championship. Both Baylor and Iowa fall into this category, but with the NIT crown on the line Thursday night at Madison Square Garden there was a clear disparity between the two teams.

Cory Jefferson (23 points, eight rebounds) and Isaiah Austin (15 points, nine rebounds) combined to shoot 14-of-18 from the field, and Pierre Jackson added 17 points and ten assists to lead the Bears to the 74-54 victory. Jackson finishes his Baylor career with double-doubles in four straight games.

With the victory the Bears won their first-ever Postseason NIT title, and the Hawkeyes struggled with Baylor’s length and athleticism on both ends of the floor. Baylor shot 54.2% from the field on the night, making 22 of their 34 two-point field goal attempts (64.7%).

By comparison Iowa shot just 26.5% from the field, making 13 of their 44 shots (29.5%) inside of the arc. Baylor’s big men certainly didn’t block every shot (seven blocks; five by Austin) in the paint but they did manage to change a number of Iowa’s looks, and in some cases the mere thought of a Baylor big man being nearby resulted in the Hawkeyes being hesitant to take those shots.

Aaron White (12 points) and Mike Gesell (ten points) were the lone Hawkeyes to reach double figures, but despite the poor outing the future looks bright for Fran McCaffery’s program. Outside of Eric May the Hawkeyes are due to return their entire rotation, and the addition of players such as Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff and incoming freshman Peter Jok will help from a depth standpoint.

As for Scott Drew’s Bears there are some significant personnel issues to address, with the graduation of Jackson and Austin’s NBA prospects (he’s projected to be a lottery pick) being the biggest ones.

Jackson’s departure will mean more minutes for L.J. Rose, a highly touted guard who didn’t see a great amount of playing time as a freshman, and their 2013 recruiting class is strong with wing Ishmail Wainright and center Dominic Woodson leading the way.

In most cases a deep Postseason NIT run can serve as a springboard into the following season (of course last year’s champion, Stanford, struggled with inconsistency and ended up back in the NIT this season). Baylor and Iowa both hope this will be the case in 2013-14.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.