Bright Star: Baylor gets by Xavier to reach Elite Eight
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Pierre Jackson turned it over, Tu Holloway hit a three-pointer from NBA range and suddenly the Baylor Bears were in a fight.
Led by Quincy Acy all game, Baylor turned to Brady Heslip at the end for four free throws that let everyone breathe a little easier.
"We made it a little closer than it needed to be," said Bears coach Scott Drew.
Acy had 20 points and 15 rebounds Friday night and Baylor held on for a 75-70 win over Xavier to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in three years.
The third-seeded Bears (30-7) led wire-to-wire, but had to fend off a run by No. 10 seed Xavier (23-13) late in the first half and Holloway's deep shot with 22.3 seconds left, which made it a 71-68 game.
Heslip scored four of his 11 points on two trips to the line with 17.6 seconds left and 6.8 seconds remaining, sealing the Sweet 16 win and sending the Bears to a meeting with top-seeded Kentucky in the South Region final Sunday.
The Wildcats beat fourth-seeded Indiana in the late game at the Georgia Dome.
Jackson, though he dribbled out of bounds on a turnover that led to Holloway's three, scored 16 points with 10 assists while playing a team-high 36 minutes.
Perry Jones III added 14 points and the Bears returned to the Elite Eight for only the second time in the modern era of the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Duke in 2010, also as a No. 3 seed.
"It feels great," Acy said. "We had thoughts at the beginning of the season that we really wanted to still be playing at this time. Here we are. Guys are doing a great job executing what coach has for us, and I think we've really just come together. We've willed ourselves to some wins."
Holloway continued to shine in the tournament, scoring 22 points to lead the Musketeers, who were one of only four teams to make the Sweet 16 four times in the last five years.
Kenny Frease added 18 points and led a 13-0 run that helped pull Xavier out of an 18-point hole in the first half. Mark Lyons scored 16 in the loss.
"I don't know if I've ever been in a locker room as down as the one I just left. Coming into the game, we had talked about not falling behind early, which it plagued us against Notre Dame and Lehigh coming into the Baylor game," said Xavier coach Chris Mack.
"It's easier said than done," he added. "Baylor is extremely talented."
The Musketeers missed their first 11 three-point attempts and were 3-for-15 in the game while shooting 42.9 percent overall.
Baylor shot 50.9 percent, including 53.3 percent in the first half -- when a hot start had the Bears ahead 22-4.
They made seven of their first nine shots and opened the game on a 14-2 run, getting four points from Heslip and Acy.
Jones capped the burst with a jumper five minutes in and the Bears went ahead by as many as 18 points on Quincy Miller's thunderous dunk with 12 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half, which made it 22-4.
The tone of the first half -- and the momentum -- changed minutes later when Acy was whistled for a flagrant 1 foul for pulling Frease down in the paint by his shoulders.
Frease made both foul shots, then a layup to trim Baylor's lead to 33-20. He knocked down a baseline jumper later -- all part of a 13-0 run that got Xavier within 33-29.
Jackson's three-pointer in the final seconds gave Baylor a 36-29 lead going into the locker room. The Bears continued to lead in the second half and were up 67-54 after a Jackson three-pointer and Acy's reverse layup with 2:20 left.
Xavier clawed back, sparked by Justin Martin's three, and was within six after Holloway's free throws with 27.7 seconds left. That's when Jackson lost the ball on the right sideline and Holloway dropped in a three-pointer from around five feet beyond the top of the arc.
But Heslip's free throws, which came around a quick driving layup by Holloway, sealed the win for Baylor.
"We've been through it a lot this year and down in big games and coming back and being able to pull out the victory or pull the game close," said Holloway. "Baylor is a really good team. You can't get down much points on them and come back. We fought all the way through to the end of the game, but we just couldn't cut it today."
Baylor and Xavier met for the second time -- both on a neutral court. In the other meeting, Baylor won 69-64 in the fifth-place game of the 2009 Old Spice Classic...Baylor is 0-6 versus Kentucky...Xavier was in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in its history and was trying to reach the Elite Eight for the third time in nine seasons.
03/24 00:37:44 ET