December 17, 2011
It's probably safe to assume Saturday's matchup between Baylor and BYU will be the only game this season that ends with an undersized guard swatting away a potential game-tying three-pointer from a big man nearly a foot taller than him.
With BYU trailing Baylor by three and just a few ticks left on the clock, 6-foot-9 forward Brandon Davies caught a kick-out pass from Charles Abouo, spotted up behind the arc and released his first three-point attempt of the season. Davies' bid to tie the game never had a chance because late-closing 5-foot-10 Pierre Jackson got his outstretched hand on it, preserving an 86-83 Baylor victory.
There aren't many sub-6-foot guards in the nation besides Jackson who could have made that play. The College of Southern Idaho transfer has a 40-inch vertical leap that he showed off in winning Baylor's Midnight Madness slam dunk contest in October with a trio of jams that received perfect 10's from the judges.
Jackson's block saved a victory that should go along way toward answering questions about the validity of seventh-ranked Baylor's undefeated record. The Bears had defeated San Diego State at home and Northwestern on the road, but this was their most impressive win considering this was just BYU's second loss in its past 50 home games.
What was especially encouraging for Baylor was the way Perry Jones III outplayed a high-quality BYU frontline. One of the few criticisms of Jones has been that he has never been a dominant scorer at any level of basketball, but he scored 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field against the Cougars.
The one thing Jones couldn't seem to help with was Baylor's inability to keep BYU off the offensive glass. The Bears allowed the Cougars to grab 19 offensive rebounds, not a good sign considering they'll see plenty of quality frontlines in the Big 12.
For BYU (8-3), the performance in a loss cemented its status as a West Coast Conference contender alongside Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. The Cougars led by 13 points in the first half thanks to a 26-11 halftime advantage on the glass, but a 10-1 Baylor spurt entering halftime narrowed the gap and then a scoring drought midway through the second half enabled the Bears to take the lead.
Among the best signs for BYU was the performance of UCLA transfer Matt Carlino in his college debut. Carlino scored 18 points and showcased the ability to hit from the perimeter or get to the rim, a performance that suggests he'll either take over BYU's starting point guard job in the near future or at the very least provide scoring punch off the bench.