Sports

Meeting pulled Baylor men's basketball team together

WACO -- Baylor players cited a team meeting held before the start of the Big 12 men's tournament in which senior leaders singled out areas that needed improvement as a key step in the Bears' run to the Sweet 16.

Baylor (29-7) has won four of five games since the clear-the-air session, including its first two games in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears, the No. 3 seed in the South Regional, will meet No. 10 seed Xavier (23-12) at 6:15 p.m. Friday in Atlanta.

"We got some things out on the table that, I think, needed to be discussed," forward Quincy Acy said Monday. "Guys have really started coming to play. And we've adjusted to everything."

Acy said he and fellow seniors "did almost all the talking" in the meeting, which sophomore guard Brady Heslip described as "good for us as a team."

Acy cited a give-and-take with younger players, but did not share specifics. Forward Perry Jones III, a sophomore who averages 13.4 points per game, acknowledged last week that teammates urged him to be more aggressive on the offensive end in tournament play.

"We told guys what they needed to hear and they did a good job of accepting it," Acy said. "And they let us know what they expect from us."

Heslip said: "That meeting ... reiterated the fact this is a family. Nobody needs to stand out. The only way we're going to win the national championship and meet our goal is by doing it together."

Quiet reception

Baylor's team basically went unnoticed upon its return to campus after securing this berth in the Sweet 16. That stood in marked contrast to 2010, when a large crowd met the team.

One major difference: These Bears, who began the season with Final Four aspirations, made it back to campus around 3 a.m. Sunday after beating Colorado 80-63 on Saturday night in Albuquerque. Upon arrival, coach Scott Drew saw only one well-wisher.

"People expected us to be going to the Sweet 16 this year," said forward Antony Jones, a senior who called the 2010 reception "special" because tournament success was unexpected then. Jones said it is "a good thing" that expectations for the program have risen to the point that a Sweet 16 berth no longer triggers an impromptu pep rally. Drew agreed.

"The goal wasn't to make the Sweet 16," Drew said. "The goal all year has been to make it to the Final Four and have a chance to win a national championship.... In life, once you do something, you want to do the next thing. That's where we're at."

Goggles off

Brady Heslip, who has made 14 of 22 shots from 3-point range (63.6 percent) in the NCAA Tournament, said he won't be flashing the 3-point goggles hand sign he used briefly in Albuquerque after successful shots during future games.

Heslip said he was warned by officials during halftime of the Colorado game about drawing attention to himself after made 3-pointers. "So I have to put them away," Heslip said.

But his confidence remains high, even if future celebrations will be muted. "This is probably the most confident I've been all year," Heslip said.

Improved odds

As a Sweet 16 participant, Baylor (29-7) received 15-1 odds Monday from Bovada Sports Book to win the school's first NCAA title. The Bears were a 35-1 choice at the start of the 68-team tournament. Kentucky, Baylor's potential opponent in the finals of the South Regional, remains the favorite at 11-5.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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