The BYU men’s basketball team advances to the NIT semifinals to play the Baylor Bears on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
BYU (24–11) comes off a big win on the road against Southern Miss but faces a tough Baylor team (21-14) in New York. Despite a disappointing 64–79 loss against the Bears earlier this season, the Cougars hope to continue strong team play on Tuesday night.
“We got off to a really good start against (Baylor),” Tyler Haws said. “We know we can play with them, so hopefully we can do that again and put together a full 48 minutes against them.”
Both teams have been playing well in the NIT, where BYU has won three games by an average of 15.7 points while Baylor has won by an average of 20 points. Playing in New York is exciting for the Cougars, but Austin said it’ll be all “business” with the goal of winning two games.
“I think both teams are playing better, but I think our team is a little more hungry than (Baylor),” Nate Austin said. “The last game, I think (Southern Miss) took us a little more lightly. But, hopefully our team is a little hungrier, a little more competitive and has more energy and juice.”
Baylor’s guard, Pierre Jackson, and forward Cory Jefferson have been leading their team, but BYU coach Dave Rose believes it’ll be different playing without either team having home-court advantage.
The Cougars have scored an average of 86.3 points in their last three games, and Tyler Haws credits the team’s recent offensive surge to playing free with nothing to lose. Playing for one another was the theme for the Cougars for their current success.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now,” Haws said. “Everyone’s sharing the ball, we’re playing fast, so we’ve hit our peak at a good time.”
Although making it to the NCAA tournament is the goal every year, Rose is proud of the way his team has responded to disappointments and hardships this season and is excited to play in one of the biggest stages in basketball, “The Garden.”
“This is really exciting,” Rose said. “We’ve been to six straight NCAA tournaments before this year, and I don’t remember being any more excited than we are right now. This is really good for our team; it’s really good for our program.”
Tip-off will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m EDT in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The game will broadcast live on ESPN2 and KSL radio.