BYU blinked first in the showdown with Baylor in the first NIT semifinal Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
For 35 minutes, the teams traded baskets, with neither side appearing capable of pulling away. But Pierre Jackson found his shooting stroke in crunch time to lead Baylor to a 76-70 win to advance to Thursday's championship against Iowa.
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Baylor led 57-54 with five minutes left and a tight finished seemed inevitable. But a 9-1 burst gave the Bears some breathing room in a game that had 15 ties and 10 lead changes.
Jackson (24 points, 10 assists) scored seven straight points during the deciding run that gave Baylor a 66-55 lead with 2:49 remaining.
"It was huge,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "It saved me a little hair until [Matt] Carlino started hitting threes from half court. Pierre is like a time bomb, you just wait for him to go off.''
Carlino (19 points) drilled three straight three-pointers in the final 1:31, with the last one cutting the gap to 71-68 with 44 seconds remaining. Jackson made one of two free throws before Carlino missed from NBA range, leading to an A.J. Walton layup with 21 seconds left to seal the win for Baylor.
"I just don't want to lose," said Baylor's Cory Jefferson, who had 21 points. "We lose a game, that's the end of our season and that's one of the main things that has been motivating me.''
Tyler Haws scored 23 points to lead BYU.
"It would be really big,'' Jackson said of winning the NIT. "This tournament isn't as bad as people think. There's some great teams in it. It's going to be the first one for Baylor. We still can make history.''
Marble spurs Iowa. Roy Devyn Marble led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds as Iowa was able to keep Maryland at arm's length for most of the nightcap and pulled away for a 71-60 victory. The junior swingman shot 8-for-16 to carry the load, as the rest of the Hawkeyes shot just 16-for-41.
"[Marble] got into a flow early and then he did the same thing late, which he typically does," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "I think he settled everybody else down."
Iowa converted 17 Maryland turnovers into 27 points. The Hawkeyes committed eight turnovers, which led to just two points for Maryland.
Maryland 7-1 center Alex Len had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks, but the Terrapins failed to consistently get the ball into the post.