In the last five years, Baylor men’s basketball has two NCAA Elite Eight appearances, one NIT runner-up finish, and now an NIT title. Head coach Scott Drew’s Bears romped all over Iowa Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, 74-54, to claim the 2013 National Invitation Tournament championship — the program’s first-ever postseason tournament title.
In one of the team’s more complete games of the year, Baylor shot 54% from the field while holding the Hawkeyes to just 26% shooting. In the seniors’ last game in the green and gold, Pierre Jackson (the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player) scored 17 points and dished out 10 assists, and A.J. Walton (the winningest player in program history) had 6 steals and 5 assists. Junior Cory Jefferson led all players with 23 points, and freshman Isaiah Austin added 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
[LINKS: Highlights from ESPN || Pictures from Baylor Photography and the AP || Get your official 2013 Baylor NIT champions t-shirt from the Baylor Bookstore || ESPN: Baylor 1 of 5 teams primed to break out next season]
Jackson finished his senior season tops in the Big 12 in both scoring (19.8 points per game) and assists (7.1 per game), the first player from a power-6 conference to lead in both categories since current Boston Celtic Jason Terry in 1998-99. He also broke LaceDarius Dunn’s Baylor records for points in a season and consecutive games with a 3-pointer. Jackson concluded his career as a Bear 14th in career scoring, having passed Baylor all-time greats David Wesley and Vinnie Johnson in his final game, and third in career assists — all despite having played just two seasons at Baylor after transferring from a junior college.
Drew’s Bears are now 15-3 in the postseason over the last five seasons. For the second straight year, Baylor was the last Texas Division I team (out of 21) playing postseason basketball. The Bears finish the year at 23-14, their fifth 20-win season in the last six years (after just three 20-win seasons in program history prior to Drew’s arrival) and gave the Big 12 its first-ever NIT championship.
[Want to show your thanks to the Bears for their NIT title run? Back the Bears with a gift of $5, $15 or $50 to the Baylor Bear Foundation Endowed Athletic Scholarship Fund!]
Fans can congratulate the team Saturday afternoon at Baylor football’s spring game; the controlled scrimmage starts at 1 p.m. at the Highers Complex practice fields. Admission is free, and all fans in attendance will receive a 2013 Baylor football schedule poster. Fans are asked to park in the Ferrell Center parking lots; a shuttle service will run from there to the complex.
Sic ’em, Baylor basketball!