After Baylor outlasted BYU in a game of wills, and Iowa overwhelmed Maryland, the NIT championship is all set for Thursday night.
With under two minutes remaining and the season hanging in the balance, BYU's Matt Carlino hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to cut Baylor's lead to 69-65, but the Baylor Bears hung on to win Tuesday night, 76-70.
Pierre Jackson, who has been a stud in the three games prior to the semis, was Baylor's high-man with 24 points Tuesday, and he talked about how difficult it was for his Bears to put BYU away in the end.
"It was really tough. They got some great players on their side, some great shooters. Carlino caught fire a little bit, but we stuck to the game plan and executed well."
BYU was a thorn in Baylor's side all night long. The Cougars were able to stick around in large part due to their effort on the glass—out-rebounding the Bears, 40-33.
This game, however, was all about execution and timing, and BYU was just a little off on both.
Tuesday night was the second time in three months these two schools have met, and Baylor head coach Scott Drew talked about the respect factor in the postgame press conference.
BYU—you gotta really credit them because they really compete hard, they never give up. It's a team that's used to winning. I don't know how many times they've had 25-plus win seasons in a row.
We have a lot of respect for them, and knew it was going to be a hard-fought game, just like the last two times we played them.
This time last year, the Baylor Bears were in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament—they reached the NIT finals in 2009, but now, they're back eyeing the 2013 NIT championship.
The Iowa vs. Maryland game was a stark contrast to the first semifinal Tuesday.
Iowa came into Tuesday night having won 10 of its last 13—and doing so by an average of 13.2 points per game—and that trend continued by disposing of Maryland, 71-60.
The Terps just ran into a buzz saw in the Hawkeyes and never really gave themselves a chance.
Maryland turned the ball over 17 times, and as a team, hit just 56.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Disappointed head coach Mark Turgeon summed up his team's effort, as reality set in that Maryland's season is officially over.
I thought we played incredibly hard, I thought we tried to win, we just didn't play smart enough—our shot selection, our turnovers, decision making.
Alex [Len] down there kept the game close, and Logan [Aronhalt] made some big shots for us.
We never quit, we cut it to five twice, we just made two or three really bad decisions. I'm proud of my team, give Iowa a lot of credit, they were great.
New York City might not be Maryland's favorite place, as the Terps' season began with a loss to Kentucky at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and it ended with a loss Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden.
As for Roy Devyn Marble of Iowa, he quickly turned his attention to the Baylor team that the Hawkeyes will face Thursday night for the championship.
I know that Pierre Jackson is a very good point guard, they're a very athletic team, so it's going to be a challenge for us defensively and rebounding against this team and to make sure that we get back in transition.
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery also spoke to the challenge they will face against Baylor.
They're just a team with a lot of weapons. They're long and athletic, and when you have a general like that [Jackson], he puts your defense on it's heels every time down.
They got length, offensive rebounders and they're going to push it. We're comfortable playing an uptempo game like that, but this will be a particularly difficult challenge.
Ultimately, Coach Drew of Baylor summed it up best when he said, "There's only two happy teams at the end of the year, the team that wins the NCAA and the team that wins the NIT.
Baylor and Iowa have one night to marinate, but by around midnight Thursday night, one team will be happy.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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