NIT Champs - Bears beat Iowa

The Bears thoroughly beat the Iowa 84-64 in dominating fashion to win the NIT championship.

We have seen this song and dance before, especially late in the year. It's a close game, usually within 5 points either way and Pierre Jackson isn't playing great. He has a few points but has missed too many shots, but has helped with some great assists. Then though…it happens. The "magic minute" as I like to call it. It has become a staple of Pierre Jackson's game, and something that will probably get him into the NBA.

This time, the game was early in the second half, and the Bears led by just three points. And then the magic minute happened. Pierre hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 6. Then he was fouled on a drive to the basket where he hit two more free throws. Then, he had a beautiful pass to Cory Jefferson for an open dunk. Finally, he splashed home another 3-pointer. The whole streak took just under 3 minutes of game action, but Pierre Jackson put up 8 points and 1 assist. Brilliant. That is what I will miss most about Pierre Jackson, the moments where he just controls everything about the game, especially on the offensive end of the court.

Another player that I will miss is A.J. Walton. I know, I know. I have been quite hard on him, especially during my ranting and raving in the open game threads. What can I say; he is like the younger brother who just knows what to do to push your buttons. He pretty much does every pet peeve I have on the basketball court, but he also do some amazing things. Last night, his defense was extraordinary. He was credited with 6 steals, but I counted another 3 plays where he either forced a turnover or a tie-up situation just with his pressure on the ball handler. Walton put it all out there last night, and led the Bears best defensive effort of the year.

While Walton was harassing the Hawkeyes from the perimeter, Isaiah Austin was destroying them inside on defense. Since the Oklahoma State game in Waco, this is by far the best interior defense we have seen from Austin. He had 5 blocked shots, but challenged shots all night, and helped hold Iowa to just 26% shooting, with a ton of misses coming around the rim. Just look at this. They had 20 offensive rebounds against the Bears, a very large number, but could only convert those into 10 second chance points.

Austin and his counterpart Cory Jefferson played outstanding all night, making Iowa shoot over them rather than bailing them out with fouls and free trips to the free throw line. On at least 8 possessions, the Hawkeyes had second and even third chances right at the rim to get points, and each time they were sent away. On one possession, they missed a jumper, and then they missed 3 put back attempts right under the basket as Cory Jefferson simply held his hands up and stayed vertical. It was perfect defense.

But the Baylor post players were not only active on defense; they were pretty dang efficient on offense too, making 14-18 shots and finishing with 38 points. Jefferson was the leading scorer for the Bears with 23 shots, including 11 straight during one stretch of the second half. Austin though, had one of his best all-around games, with 15 points on 6-7 shooting from the field, to go along with 4 assists and 9 rebounds. He made the right play time and time again and got the Bears great looks. He kicked the ball out well and his high/low passing was excellent.

Overall, this was a game that the Bears dominated, especially the last 10 minutes of the game. They got great play from four of their five starters, and came out focused to win it all. Yes, it wasn't the tournament they wanted to be in, but it was the tournament that they had, and they literally made the best of it.

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