It took most of a half, but Baylor kicked it into gear to beat South Dakota State 68-60 Thursday in its NCAA tournament opener.
Yet it was the guards – not the Bears’ vaunted frontcourt – that did the heavy lifting.
The South’s No. 3 seed got 35 points from backcourt duo of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, who hit 11 of 21 shots and had just two turnovers, not to mention playing 71 combined minutes.
The Bears (28-7) fell behind 19-9 early, but used a 30-11 run during the following 14 minutes (including halftime) to assume a comfortable lead. The Jackrabbits (27-8), making their first NCAA tourney appearance, closed strong, cutting the deficit to 64-60 with just over a minute left.
But Baylor hit four free throws in that span and benefited by a missed SDST 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds. They advanced to the round of 32 for the second time in the last three years where they’ll play the UNLV-Colorado winning on Saturday.
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