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January 5, 2013

Jackson, Bears top Horns in OT thriller

The Bears made it to overtime Saturday and Pierre Jackson willed Baylor to an 86-79 overtime victory against Texas in the Big 12 opener at the Ferrell Center. Here are 10 quick thoughts from the game:

1) First things first. Great to see Baylor assistant coach Jerome Tang get his first win in a game that will count on his coaching record. Baylor faced a much improved Texas team, survived a stint in the second half where Pierre Jackson had three fouls and found a way to win. Tang had a lot of work to do - he made a ton of substitutions, leading one tweeter to say he was like a hockey coach changing lines. Baylor's plan in overtime worked very well - get on the back of Jackson. Can't give Tang anything short of an 'A' for his first outing as head coach.

2) Jackson overcame a poor shooting game - especially from 3-point land - to take over the game in overtime. He scored 11 points in the extra five minutes, nine of them on made free throws as he was able to penetrate and draw fouls. He fouled out two key Longhorns - Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond. Jackson will probably have this kind of pressure on him at the end of games until Isaiah Austin's offensive game evolves for the late-game moments.

3) Cory Jefferson and Austin carried the Bears for long stretches of the game. Jefferson had a monster 36 minutes, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Austin had 18 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes. Baylor only out-rebounded Texas 45-44 but it seemed like more as the Bears came down with the key rebounds.

4) Deuce Bello played only 15 minutes, scoring five points and had three points. Not a great line, right? Wrong. Bello made a big difference on the defensive end. He had two steals and a block. He had five rebounds. And with Brady Heslip struggling to score, the Bears were better off against the Horns having Bello in the game to make an impact in other areas. This will be interesting to watch go forward, because ...

5) Baylor was 4 of 18 on 3-pointers. The Bears front-rimmed a ton of shots. Heslip never had his legs under him, making 1 of 5 from behind the arc. Jackson made 1 of 7. A.J. Walton was missed all three of his 3-point attempts. The big concern is Heslip, who hasn't gotten into a rhythm this season. And when he doesn't make 3s, unfortunately his value drops a little.

6) Baylor didn't have a defensive answer for Texas freshman Javan Felix, who scored 26 points. Felix was able to penetrate to the free throw line extended and sink shot after shot. He did cool down in overtime, which helped the Bears. What made Felix's best game as a collegiate player more interesting is that Baylor liked him a lot and recruited him hard. And it was Tang that did most of the work in trying to get Felix to Baylor. A fun sidebar to Saturday's game.

7) Very good Baylor crowd today. More of a student presence in games to come.

8) Thought the game was well officiated. The refs let a lot of stuff go, which I like.

9) Drew will sit out one more game, Tuesday night at Texas Tech. It's strange not having Drew in the building. Sure he had a great seat in front of a flat screen somewhere.

10) Overall, an important win. The Bears, who still are searching for an identity and consistency, shot just 35.9 percent from the field and still won. Anytime Jackson is on the floor, they have a chance. It will be interesting to see where Drew goes with the rotation if Heslip continues to be off and on from outside and Bello keeps getting better and better. Also L.J. Rose is starting to make a difference. Baylor played nine guys Saturday. How the coaches divide up the minutes from this point forward will not only be interesting to watch, but will also be a key to Baylor's success or failure in the Big 12.


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