NIT Round 3: Baylor Bears to Visit Auburn

A pair of hot basketball teams square off in Auburn for an NIT quarter-finals matchup.

Auburn, Ala.--Baylor started the basketball season on a hot streak and is closing it the same way.

On Tuesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, the Bears from Waco, Tex., will be Auburn's third round opponent in the National Invitation Tournament. The winner moves on to New York City for the semi-finals of the NIT a week later while the loser sacks up the basketballs until next season.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CDT with television coverage on ESPN.

The Bears won 13 of their first 14 games and entered January in the Top 20 nationally in both major polls, but hit the skids once the Big 12 season started.

Baylor finished 5-11 in conference play, but was the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City by almost winning a bid to the NCAA Tournament before falling 83-70 to Missouri in the championship game.

Baylor has won five of its last six games and brings a 22-14 mark to Auburn to face the 24-11 Tigers, who knocked off UT-Martin in the first round of the NIT 87-82 and followed that with a 74-55 victory over Tulsa on Friday.

Baylor opened NIT play with a 74-72 home win over Georgetown, its first postseason victory in 59 years, before hitting the road on Saturday to knock off Virginia Tech 84-66.

Senior guard Curtis Jerrells leads the Bears in scoring at 16.1 points per game. The six-foot-one player is averaging 4.8 rebounds.

Curtis Jerrells is a key player for an athletic Baylor team.

LaceDarius Dunn, a 6-4 sophomore guard, is scoring 15.4 points per game for Coach Scott Drew's team and averages 4.7 rebounds.

Kevin Rogers is the top rebounder. The 6-9, 250 senior is averaging 7.5 rebounds and 12.5 points.

Tweely Carter, a 5-11 junior guard, is averaging 10.6 points and 3.2 assists per contest.

At center the Bears feature 7-0, 280 junior Josh Lomers, who averages 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds. He was one of five Bears who scored in double figures at Virginia Tech on Saturday as he finished that game with 12 points.

Off the bench the Bears count on 6-0 senior guard Henry Dugat (10.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists) and 6-7 freshman Quincy Acy (5.6 points, 3.6 rebounds).

Baylor leads the series 3-2. The teams last played in in December 1996 as the Bears defeated Auburn 68-63 at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

The Bears average scoring 76.4 points per game to Auburn's 72.8. They are giving up 70.2 points per contest compared to Auburn's 65.1.

Baylor is shooting 46.6 percent from the field, including 36.2 percent from three-point range. At the foul line the Bears are making 71.1 percent of their shots.

Auburn is shooting 44.0 percent from the field and 33.4 percent on threes. At the foul line Auburn is making 60.6 percent of its opportunities.

AU's opponents are making 40.5 percent of their shots and 32.9 percent of their threes. Baylor's opponents are making 43.3 percent of their shots and 33.9 percent of their three-point attempts.

The Tigers are averaging 36.8 rebounds and giving up an identical total. Baylor is pulling in 34.3 rebounds per game and giving up 34.4.

Auburn averages 13.2 turnovers and forces 16.4. The Bears average 12.9 turnovers and force 13.9.

The only common opponent is South Carolina, a team that defeated visiting Auburn 68-56 on January 10th. South Carolina beat Baylor 85-84 eight days earlier on the road in Waco.

Auburn comes into Tuesday's game playing its best basketball of the season. The Tigers have won 11 of their last 13 contests.

Friday night's victory over Tulsa featured the return of 6-8 junior forward Johnnie Lett, who had not played for the Tigers since Jan. 31st due to an ankle injury. He pulled in three rebounds and played good defense when both Korvotney Barber and Brendon Knox got into first half foul trouble.

Rasheem Barrett drives to the basket in Auburn's victory over Tulsa.

DeWayne Reed leads Auburn in scoring with 13.2 points per game, Barber is next at 12.9 followed by Tay Waller at 12.2 and Rasheem Barrett at 9.7. Barrett led the Tigers with 17 points on Friday night.

The winner of the Auburn vs. Baylor game advances to the NIT semi-finals that will be played on Tuesday, March 31st at Madison Square. The opponent will be either San Diego State, which will play the winner of Monday night's Davidson at St. Mary's game on Wednesday night in San Diego.

Two other SEC teams are still playing in the NIT field. Kentucky will play at Creighton on Monday night in a second round game with the winner advancing to play Notre Dame in the quarter-finals for the right to move on to New York City. Like Auburn, Florida is already into the quarter-finals and will be at home on Tuesday night vs. Penn State trying to punch its ticket to the NIT Final Four.

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