Perry Jones III wakes up in a win over Kansas State

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Baylor has spent much of the season as the media’s whipping boy.

For all the talent and all the potential that is on that roster, the No. 12 Bears have been disappointing this season. They went just 2-6 against the rest of the Big 12’s top five teams and found themselves all the way down in the four seed in the Big 12 Tournament, a spot that Baylor doesn’t often find themselves but a sobering result for a team with Big 12 title aspirations.

No one took more heat than Perry Jones III, the top five pick who has been as heavily criticized a player as you’ll come across for his apparent lack of heart and toughness.

Well, the Bears made a statement on Wednesday afternoon, manhandling Kansas State 82-74 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.

And PJ3 was the star. He had 21 points and eight boards — on 8-8 shooting — as Baylor opened up a nine point halftime lead and finished the game with 31 points and 11 boards. It was a statement performance by Jones, one that he needed not only to silence some doubters for the moment but to help rebuild his all-so-important confidence. The Bears get Kansas (pending a win over Texas A&M) next. Baylor is going to need him to play like a man.

It wasn’t all pretty for the Bears, either. Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State’s seven-foot center, finished with 22 points, 14 boards and four blocks. What happens when the Bears have to deal with Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson?

For now, that isn’t what’s important.

Perry Jones III played his best game of the year on the first day of March. As they say, the postseason is a new season. Let’s see if PJ3 can build off of this.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.