GAMES NOTES: The quarterfinals of the 2013 National Invitational Tournament will continue on Wednesday night when the Providence Friars seek their 20th win against the Baylor Bears at the Ferrell Center.
The winner of this contest gets to make the trip to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on April 2 against either Southern Miss or BYU.
These teams have met just once previously with Baylor taking a 72-56 victory during the 2008-09 season.
Behind a double-double from Vincent Council and big scoring nights from LaDontae Henton and Bryce Cotton, the Friars got by Robert Morris, 77-68, in the second round on Monday. That leaves the Friars just one victory away from their first 20-win season since 2004 and only their seventh in the last 35 years. Providence earned NIT titles in 1961 and 1963 and its 19 appearances are tied for fourth most all-time.
After blasting Long Brach State (112-66) in the first round, Baylor had a bit more trouble with Arizona State in the second round. The Bears prevailed in an 89-86 decision behind Pierre Jackson's huge night (26 points, 16 assists). With the victory the Bears earned their fourth 20-win campaign under Scott Drew after having only three such campaigns before he took the helm in Waco.
Council netted 12 points and handed out 10 assists, playing all 40 minutes against Robert Morris. A number of his helpers set up scoring opportunities for Henton (21 points) and Cotton (20 points). The Friars struggled in the first half but found their range after halftime and shot 57.9 percent to close out the game and seal the victory.
Big scoring nights have come to be expected from Cotton (19.6 ppg) who was the Big East's leading scorer during the regular season and is a threat to drop in 20 or more points each time out. Henton (13.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is clearly a capable scorer as well, while teaming with Kadeem Batts (14.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) to form an imposing frontcourt that excels in cleaning the glass and filling up the basket. Council (10.0 ppg, 7.0 apg) is more comfortable setting his teammates up but can get points himself when the Friars need it. Depth is a concern for the Friars though, as the team scores 67.6 points per game, with no other contributors put in more than six points per contest.
The second half between Arizona State and Baylor was a track meet with the two teams combining for 115 points. The Bears shot an impressive 49.2 percent from the floor and nailed 25 shots from the free-throw line in the win. Led by Jackson, the Bears assisted on 22 of their 29 field goals.
Jackson (19.7 ppg, 6.2 apg) was an important member of the Bears a year ago but this season has been the center of attention. The 5-foot-10 guard has a motor that doesn't stop and makes plays on both ends of the floor, excelling in scoring and distributing. Isaiah Austin (13.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Cory Jefferson (12.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) give the Bears immediate answers to Batts and Henton, while Brady Heslip (9.0 ppg) is a dangerous shooter from beyond the arc where he hits 39.6 percent of his attempts. Baylor is an impressive offensive team, as it scores 75.9 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting, ranking second in the Big 12 in both categories.
These two teams match up extremely well. However the Bears have more depth and enough talent in both the front and backcourts to keep the Friars from advancing.