Long Beach State (19-13) at Baylor (18-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 20, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ferrell Center (10,347) -- Waco, Texas. Television: ESPN 2. NIT Record: LBSU 2-6, Baylor 4-4. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: The second-seeded Baylor Bears entertain the seventh-seeded Long Beach State 49ers in the first round of the 2013 National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center.
The winner will move on to the second round to play either Arizona State or Detroit.
LBSU (19-13) earned an automatic bid to the NIT by winning the Big West Conference outright, but it failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament after dropping its semifinal matchup in the conference tournament to UC Irvine, 67-60, giving it just a 2-4 record in the past six games. The 49ers have qualified for the postseason for the third straight year, the first time the program has accomplished that feat since the early 1970s.
Baylor made their NCAA Tournament resume' much more interesting following a 81-58 triumph over Kansas in the regular-season finale, but its bubble was burst in the Big 12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals with a 74-72 loss to Oklahoma State. The Bears earned a No. 2 seed in this event by going 18-14 overall and they are hosting an NIT game for only the second time.
The teams have split the all-time series, 2-2, but they haven't met since Baylor won on a neutral floor in December of 1979, 87-80.
The 49ers appeared destined to advance to their conference championship game when they were up six with under seven minutes to go against UCI, but they fell victim to a 14-4 Anteater run down the stretch as they were handed the seven-point defeat. Tony Freeland and Keala King each netted 15 points in the setback, Mike Caffey tallied 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while James Ennis, the Big West Conference Player of the Year, poured in 11 points. On the season, the 49ers boast a stellar offense, averaging 69.5 ppg on nearly 45 percent efficiency from the field, but they actually yield more points per game to their opponents (70.2 ppg). Ennis is a playmaker across the board, scoring 16.7 ppg on 49.3 percent from the floor to go along with 6.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.3 bpg. Caffey (12.3 ppg, 3.8 apg), Freeland (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg), King (9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Dan Jennings (8.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) are also regular contributors.
The Bears trailed Oklahoma State by 13 points midway through the second half, and while they were able to climb all the way back to tie the game with 19 seconds left on a four-point play by Gary Franklin, they sent the Cowboys to the foul line in the waning seconds, where they drained the game-winning pair of free throws. Pierre Jackson was off the mark from 3-point range (2-of-11), but he drained 13-of-14 at the stripe to help him get to 31 points, which tied a season-high. A.J. Walton netted 13 points in the loss, while Cory Jefferson tallied a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jackson is one of the top guards in the nation, putting up 19.8 ppg, 6.5 apg and 1.5 spg. Isaiah Austin (13.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg) has had an outstanding freshman campaign, while Jefferson (12.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg) joins him in the frontcourt to make up a fearsome duo in the trenches. As a team, Baylor had one of the top offenses in the Big 12 (74.4 ppg) while boasting a strong enough defense to support it (66.0 ppg).
With electric star power on both sides, this is sure to be a fun matchup to watch. LBSU actually has solid forwards to combat Austin and Jefferson down low, but it doesn't have anyone nearly as athletic as Jackson out on the perimeter. That combined with the home court advantage should be enough for the Bears to advance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Baylor 80, Long Beach State 73
03/20 10:31:41 ET