We attended a NCAA men’s basketball classic at AAC in Dallas last night with long time friend and regular reader, Longshanks. No.6 Baylor defeated No.16 Mississippi in a battle at the AAC in Dallas. Baylor junior Pierre Jackson’s driving layup with 28 seconds left and blocked the Bulldogs’ final shot attempt for a 54-52 victory, improving Baylor’s record to 13-0 and tying a school record best season start.
Renardo Sidney is going to get blamed for this loss after what he did with 1:35 left on the clock. After playing only 19 minutes due to heavy foul trouble, Renardo Sidney drew his fifth and final foul and a technical on the same possession. Down 52-50, Baylor’s Quincy Miller hit one of the two technical foul shots, and Quincy Acy hit one of his two foul shots to tie the game with 1:35 remaining.
Sidney did tie for the team-lead with 10 points and was dominant in the low post against Baylor’s rotation of low post defenders.
Wednesday’s game featured two contrasting halves, with Baylor topping Mississippi State by one point in both periods. The difference was a combined 39 points from the teams in the final 20 minutes compared to the first half, after which Baylor led 34-33.
The Bears struggled to 6 of 28 shooting in the second half, while the Bulldogs didn’t fare much better at 8 of 23. With such smothering defenses, Miller was asked if Wednesday was a man’s game.
“It was. The big men were tough, physical,” Miller said. “It was a very tough game.”
Baylor forced three ties in the second half after Jalen Steele’s 3-pointer put the Bulldogs ahead 38-36 at 17:34. After the first two ties, though, the Bulldogs responded by silencing the Baylor fans in attendance.
Hood answered a Perry Jones III dunk with a runner in the paint to retake a 40-38 lead, and Dee Bost later nailed a jumper in the paint after another Jones III dunk momentarily tied the game at 48.
Jones’ dunks were two of only four field goals he netted in the game, as he finished 4 of 13 with eight points. Jones is now 11 of 34 in his last three games.
The first half of Wednesday’s game was a seesaw affair, with three ties and five lead changes. Heslip had 11 points at the halftime buzzer, while Jackson had 10.
With over 20 seconds left, State couldn’t get a solid look at the low block and a pick-and-roll never developed, thanks to some great denial defense by Baylor. Bost failed to touch the ball for the final part of the game and clearly the set that was called in the huddle was designed to create something off the dribble. Plan B unfortunately became freshman guard Rodney Hood taking an off-balanced contested jump shot that was blocked.
College basketball fans learned two things about Baylor. Their guard play is significantly better with the additions of Boston College transfer Brady Heslip’s shooting and former junior college All-American Pierre Jackson’s ability to create off the dribble. They are also a major force in Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone defense that allows the Bears to have long, athletic wings to come out 25 feet away to contest perimeter players and basically turn their defense into a mix-and-match man-to-man.
When I got home I watched a replay of the game. Twenty nine scouts from 25 NBA teams were in American Airlines Center to see the Arnett Moultrie/Perry Jones III matchup. Looking at the box score, it may appear that neither was productive. But Moultrie has an impressive game, playing physical defense. Moultrie was able to push Jones III out 12-15 feet away from the basket before he would get the post catch from a Baylor guard, most of the night. Baylor’s projected lottery pick was 4-for-13 for only eight points.
Mississippi State (12-2) almost knocked off a Final Four contender in a NCAA Tournament-like contest at a neutral site. The Bears are ecstatic about being one of four undefeated teams in the country. They’ve defeated some good teams and have earned the accolades that will come their way. Baylor is definitely the team to watch in the Big XII, (10-team) Conference. The Bears’ conference opener against Texas A&M, tips off at 6 p.m. Monday, January 2 at the Ferrell Center in Waco.