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NIT : BYU, Baylor promise to light up the MSG scoreboard

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU head coach Dave Rose as BYU hosts Saint Mary's, college basketball Wednesday January 16, 2013 in Provo.

By Jay Drew

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 01 2013 03:22PM
Updated Jul 7, 2013 11:30PM

New York • Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew jokingly suggested Monday that the up-tempo Bears and similarly fast break-loving BYU Cougars are going to use a 24-second shot clock — rather than the 35 seconds that college teams get ­— when they meet on Tuesday night in a National Invitation Tournament semifinal game at Madison Square Garden.

That’s probably fine with BYU coach Dave Rose. A time machine probably is not.

BYU’s first NIT semifinal game since the Cougars took the title in 1966 tips off at 5 p.m. MDT and will be televised by ESPN2.

If nothing else, the Cougars (24-11) would rather avoid a repeat of their December game against Baylor (21-14). The Cougars were ahead 29-19 at one stage, but got outscored 21-2 in the latter stages of the first half before eventually falling 79-64 in Waco, Texas.

"We are excited about the opportunity [to play in the NIT semifinals], but not so excited to play Baylor," Rose said from the podium at a news conference at the Marriott Marquis on Monday. "We played Baylor in December and they kind of handled us pretty well."

Iowa and Maryland meet in the other semifinal, but Drew promised the BYU-Baylor game will be thoroughly entertaining to those who like up-tempo basketball.

"BYU is one of the fastest teams you will see play," he said. "We try to do the same thing. [The shot clock] probably won’t come into effect."

The Big 12’s Bears are averaging 93.3 points per game, best of any team in the NIT. The Cougars are the second highest scoring team in the tournament, averaging 86.3 per contest.

BYU sent captains Tyler Haws, Brandon Davies and Brock Zylstra to the news conference, and all three said the Cougars must continue to do what they’ve done since the second half of their tournament-opening 90-79 win over Washington: run, run and run some more.

"We have to continue to play fast and free," said Haws, the country’s 11th-leading scorer with a 20.6 average. "That’s really been a key these last few games. Guys are playing loose. There is nothing to lose and so we got to keep playing that way."

While the Cougars remember what happened to them in December and have vowed to learn from it, a couple of losses in November are also on their minds. They hope that playing in the Coaches vs. Cancer Invitational at the Barclay’s Center in nearby Brooklyn — although they lost 88-70 to Florida State and 78-68 to Notre Dame — prepared them for the atmosphere they can expect Tuesday in what Rose called the "mecca of not only college basketball, but basketball in general."

"We have played in some big environments this year, on some big stages," Haws said. "I think our guys are kind of over that. We are hungry to get a few more wins, and we are excited to get back on the court."

Rose said to win the Cougars must rebound well, get back better on defense than they did in Waco, and do a better job on Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson, who transferred from the College of Southern Idaho. Jackson and forward Cory Jefferson had 16 points apiece in the first game, and Jackson added nine assists and four steals.

"He is virtually impossible to guard," Rose said. "We have to get him into spots where he is not as comfortable."

A key to BYU’s turnaround has been improved rebounding — the Cougars have a plus-nine rebounding margin in the NIT — but Rose said it is "doubtful" that 22-game starter Josh Sharp will play, having strained his Achilles tendon in practice two weeks ago.

"Our guys do know the challenge," Rose said. "We do understand that we are playing a very talented team, a very hot team, a team that’s on a roll."

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