Reserves, 3-point shooting get Baylor through NCAA opener

ALBUQUERQUE -- Hillary Clinton, among others, famously espoused the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child.

The point, of course, is that strength in numbers beats a solo act every time.

The concept also applies to college basketball, a point Baylor drove home during its 68-60 win over South Dakota State in an NCAA Tournament game Thursday at The Pit.

Baylor's leading scorer, forward Perry Jones III, contributed a season-low two points. The Bears' lone senior starter, forward Quincy Acy, managed only four points and three rebounds while battling foul problems.

Bears coach Scott Drew knows how most Baylor fans would have responded if they'd been told those numbers before the game and asked about the likelihood of a victory.

"Most people would say, 'No,'" Drew said. "But the great thing is that we have people who can step up... If certain players aren't playing well, we have other players that can go in and do a great job."

Place reserve forward Anthony Jones at the head of that list. And add reserve point guard A.J. Walton. Without the efforts of both players Thursday, the Bears' season would be over.

Instead, Baylor (28-7) advanced to Saturday's game against the Colorado-UNLV winner because of their bench duo, as well as the clutch shooting of guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip.

Jackson and Heslip combined for 35 of the team's 68 points. But Baylor, the No. 3 seed in the South Regional, remains alive to try and fulfill those pre-tournament expectations because Anthony Jones provided instant offense off the bench and Walton helped put the defensive clamps on the Jackrabbits after SDSU jumped out to early leads of 8-0 and 19-7.

Anthony Jones scored 11 points in his first seven minutes of action after entering the game in the first half. He proved pivotal in helping the Bears turn a 12-point deficit at the 13:18 mark into a 36-28 lead at halftime.

The senior took four shots from the field. He made all of them, including a 3-pointer, and added a pair of free throws. While younger teammates confessed to a bad case of pre-game jitters, Anthony Jones simply shrugged and said he'd been there before and was ready when summoned.

"We were... playing a little sluggish. So [Drew] put me in and I gave the team a spark," Jones said. "Any chance I get to get in, I'm going to try to make the most of it."

His offensive surge overlapped Walton's contributions on the defensive end. Baylor transitioned quickly out of its zone defense in favor of a man-to-man approach, with Walton handling SDSU top scorer Nate Wolters.

The result? The Jackrabbits, who built their 19-7 lead by hitting 70 percent from the field (7 of 10) in the early stages, made only 2 of 14 the rest of the half. Wolters finished with 19 points, two below his season average.

But doubts remained about whether the defensive stops would be enough because PJ3, a 14-point scorer, remained scoreless until making a layup with 10:58 remaining. The same player who dominated last week's Big 12 tournament could not free himself from SDSU's double-teams in the low post and made just 1-of-6 shots. But he did grab a game-high 11 rebounds.

Acy, meanwhile, had more fouls (4) than rebounds (3) or field goals (2). With forward Quincy Miller (eight second-half points) providing the only inside production down the stretch, the Bears' 64-54 lead dwindled to 64-60 before Heslip was fouled while rebounding a missed shot by SDSU's Brayden Carlson with 23 seconds remaining.

Heslip hit both free throws and Jackson followed, moments later, with another pair to seal the win. But Drew acknowledged much of the credit belonged to Anthony Jones.

"Anthony Jones, I think every coach dreams of coaching a player like him," Drew said. "When he started, he was a great teammate. When he hasn't played, he's been a great teammate. He's always put the team first."

Baylor has another game to play Saturday, in large part because of him. And because of fellow reserve A.J. Walton.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram