Baylor's superior guard play lifted the sixth-ranked Bears up and past BYU in a passionate, hard-fought 86-83 victory for the visiting Big 12 squad Saturday in the Marriott Center.
If anything for BYU's Dave Rose, it was a learning experience. His went toe-to-toe with a potential Final Four team with two NBA first-round picks and came up short while experimenting with a freshman point guard.
With the game on the line, Rose rode the long-awaited debut of freshman guard Matt Carlino, who delivered the fearless shooting needed in the post-Jimmer era with 18 points. But Carlino also had four costly turnovers, the last on a late, big-time possession.
BYU guards were shaky. Baylor's were nails. That was the game.
As expected, Carlino showed some rust. He got picked in the back court looking at the bench as he dribbled against a press. He threw the ball away three other times, but he did bury 4-of-8 treys.
Cougar center Brandon Davies scored 18 points but, with time running out, his frantic attempt at a game-tying 3-point bucket got blocked by tiny 5-foot-10 Pierre Jackson, a transfer from the College of Southern Idaho.
Standing nearby, BYU guards Carlino and Brock Zylstra were stunned and stood with their palms up. Both wanted the last shot but Davies instinctively pulled up to beat the clock.
That scene told the story of BYU's effort to knock off one of the big boys.
Jackson and Brady Heslip combined for eight 3-point buckets, three of them coming after Baylor was nursing a 70-67 lead with six minutes to play — a time most visitors to the Marriott Center can't find their wind or legs.
That Baylor guard play proved critical in BYU's downfall to the highest-ranked opponent they'll face the rest of the regular season. BYU led 64-56 before the Bears ripped off a 12-0 run early in the second half.
Baylor coach Scott Drew wanted to travel to BYU to prepare his team for Big 12 play in a hostile environment. He got what he wanted.
"I was pleased how they handled it against a very good BYU team," he said.
Some of Drew's players claimed it was something they'd never encountered.
"I want to give respect to the fan base," said Baylor center Perry Jones III, who scored 28 points, including the clincher, a tip-in dunk after he left the court and stopped the game with a knee issue in the final minutes.
"They are like one of the toughest places to play anywhere and they stayed up, didn't use foul language or anything, they stayed humble, kept it clean, didn't talk trash or cuss us out like other places, and I respect that."
Heslip, who killed BYU early and late with 6 big 3-pointers and 18 total points, said the Marriott Center was incredibly loud.
"This is the loudest gym I've ever played in," said Heslip. "That's a great team on the other side and those fans are second to none. You can't hear anything when they are scoring and that's an important thing."
Jackson, who blocked Davies', shot said he didn't know what his vertical jump is "but I jump pretty high, though, and high enough." He simply went for the block as he saw Davies try to beat the clock.
And the crowd?
"Man, this is crazy. I couldn't even hear myself talking out there at times. It's a great environment and they have great fans," said Jackson.
And that's why BYU's loss was so costly.
It is rare the Cougars can get a Big 12, Big Ten or ACC team to come to Provo. They simply refuse the invite. Drew refused at first and then hedged for a while until he and Rose agreed to an early Saturday game in mid-December after finals.
BYU led Baylor for most of 30 minutes of a 40-minute slugfest. The Cougars outrebounded the Bears 44-31 and had a solid game plan to guard the middle and make the Bears beat them from the arc. They did with 13 treys.
BYU cannot afford to lull in offense like they did against a Baylor and expect to win. They did this same thing against Wake Forest in Provo a couple of years ago. In all three BYU losses this year, they've hit a dead spell, lost a lead and couldn't get it back. It's called sustainability of high-level play.
Carlino will knock off the rust and he proved on Saturday he will be something to watch for Cougar fans. His double-crossover, 3-point shot over Baylor's 6-foot-7 Quincy Acy was Jimmer-like. He made half his shots (7-of-14), but, more importantly, he is an Alpha Dog on this BYU team.
Dave Rose can always use another strong, testy bark.
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