Even as BYU hung with a Baylor team that dominated the Cougars on its home floor in December, there was one player who seemed to slip through the seams — sometimes literally.
Pierre Jackson finished with 24 points, including a 3-for-5 effort from 3-point range, as Baylor outhustled the Cougars, 76-70 at Madison Square Garden in the National Invitation Tournament.
Jackson, who also collected 10 assists and five rebounds, symbolized his team’s effort with just over three minutes remaining in the game. The senior from Las Vegas used a screen to ditch defender Matt Carlino in the paint, then bounced off an incoming Brandon Davies on his way to the right corner, where he cooly buried a three that gave Baylor (22-14) a 64-54 lead, the largest of the game for either team.
"They were a terrific team," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But I’m really proud of our guys.
"There were a lot of things we needed to do when we were down. We outrebounded them, and I think that speaks volumes to the type of players we have. I’m really proud of how they fought back."
Tyler Haws led all scorers with 25 points and four rebounds, and Matt Carlino added 19 points and five assists, including back-to-back threes in the final minute that nearly brought BYU (24-13) back.
But the real surprise was Nate Austin, who finished with nine points and a team-high 11 rebounds — including seven on the offensive glass.
"I think that Nate’s effort the last month and a half of the season has been terrific," Rose said. "We had a hard time keeping him on the floor, because he’d pick up fouls. He rebounded well, and I think he really found a niche that can really help our team."
Brandon Davies supplied 13 points and five rebounds in his final game in a BYU uniform. The senior, who averaged 17.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this year, had a hand in the Cougars’ first three buckets — scoring twice and assisting on another to give the Cougars a brief 6-2 lead.
But the Cougars could never shake the Big XII team from Waco, Texas, and the Bears made them pay late.
"We wanted to mainly limited (Davies) touches and make him go the way we wanted him to go," Jefferson said.
That left Carlino open on the perimeter. The sophomore from Scottsdale, Ariz., scored 15 of his points from 3-point range — but took 14 attempts to get there. BYU shot just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc, and made only 41.7 percent (25-of-60) shots on the night.
Yet the Cougars refused to die, as well.
"You just have to pick yourself up and keep playing," Haws said. "In that first game, I got in a little bit of foul trouble, and it disrupted my rhythm. Today I just wanted to attack, be smart and be aggressive for 40 minutes."
The experience of playing of this postseason run and playing in Madison Square Garden, though, could lead to a better future for BYU basketball. And despite the graduation of seniors Brock Zylstra, Craig Cusick and Davies, Rose noted the future looks bright for BYU basketball.
"The nucleus of that group are second year guys, and I think the future looks good," he said.