Pierre Jackson

Baylor too much for Iowa in comfortable NIT title game victory

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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.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.