Baylor beats Providence for NIT quarterfinal

WACO, Texas (AP) — Pierre Jackson had 20 points with 13 assists, seven rebounds and no turnovers in his final home game for Baylor as the Bears beat Providence 79-68 in an NIT quarterfinal game Wednesday night.

Cory Jefferson added 26 points and Rico Gathers had 10 rebounds for the Bears (21-14), who go to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden for the second time in four years.

Providence (19-15) had three 20-point scorers — Bryce Cotton with 23, Vincent Council 21 and Kadeem Batts 20. Only one other player scored for the Friars, who got to quarterfinal with a win over Robert Morris, the team that beat Kentucky in the first round.

Baylor went ahead to stay when Jefferson had a dunk with 8:11 left for a 60-59 lead. That started a 7-0 run over 71 seconds that Jefferson capped with a three-point play.

After the final buzzer and a team prayer at midcourt, Baylor coach Scott Drew briefly addressed the crowd. Then Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blared over the speakers in the arena.

“When you’ve got a lot on the line like a chance to go to New York and play in a Final Four atmosphere in Madison Square Garden, you know you don’t have to motivate as a coach,” Drew said. “Our guys were extremely excited all day long for this game. … The big thing was we took care of the ball all game”

The Bears had 19 assists with only five turnovers as a team.

Jackson, the point guard who had 26 points and 16 assists in Baylor’s victory over Arizona State on Friday night, played the entire game against Providence. Now he gets to go to New York for the first time.

“That’s what I was the thinking the whole time, just playing and getting the chance to go somewhere I’ve never been,” Jackson said.

Since losing to Penn State in the 2009 NIT championship game, the Bears had been to NCAA regional finals twice in the past three seasons.

They play BYU (24-11) on Tuesday, a rematch of a game the Bears won 79-64 at home on Dec. 21.

“Every coach would rather play a team you hadn’t played,” Drew said. “But at the same time, we’re all happy to be playing still.”

Providence jumped ahead 10-4 before Baylor scored 11 points in a row, including two three-point plays by Jefferson.

The Bears were ahead 38-35 when Cotton missed a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in the first half. Deuce Bello had the rebound from Baylor, but Cotton stole a pass and hit a 3 at the buzzer to tie the game.

Baylor scored the first seven points after halftime. Providence then had a 9-2 run to tie the game at 49 with 13:16 left, and the Friars’ last lead came almost 5 minutes later when a free throw by Council put them up 59-58.

“I thought we played really well for about 34 minutes. I thought we got tired. I thought their depth was greater than ours,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley, whose team played Monday. “

“We’ve come a long way with our program, a long ways, being picked last in our league to advancing this far,” he said. “I mean, we were inches away from an NCAA tournament with basically a short roster, but I’m proud of our progress. Looking forward to next year.”