NEW YORK — Pierre Jackson made the National Invitation Tournament his own.
The Baylor senior from Las Vegas finished his college career in style with his fourth straight double-double, compiling 17 points and 10 assists to lead the Bears to the first NIT title in school history with a 74-54 win over Iowa on Thursday.
“You can put his numbers up with any guard in the country,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “The bigger the stage, the bigger the moment, the bigger — better — he performs.”
Jackson, who played at Desert Pines High School and College of Southern Idaho before transferring to Baylor prior to his junior season, was a shoo-in as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“My emotions are really high right now,” Jackson said.
Cory Jefferson scored 23 points and Isaiah Austin had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bears (23-14), who reached the tournament final five years ago, but never had won it.
Mike Gesell scored 13 points to lead Iowa (25-13) and Aaron White added 12. Hawkeyes star Devyn Marble was held to six points.
Baylor reached the title game with a disjointed, but ultimately winning, effort against Brigham Young in Tuesday’s semifinal. The Bears looked much more complete Thursday, combining their offensive fluency with a pesky defense, led by senior guard A.J. Walton, that pressured Iowa on the edge and thwarted them inside with a tangle of long arms and legs.
“We’re a driving team, we get to the free throw line more typically, and we just didn’t do that tonight,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
Austin had five of Baylor’s seven blocked shots.
Jefferson threw down two rattling dunks in the first eight minutes of the half as the Bears slowly pulled away. Eric May’s layup 2½ minutes into the half cut Baylor’s lead to a point, but Baylor got out to an 11-point lead less than four minutes after that, thanks to Jefferson’s dunks and a big 3-pointer by Jackson that made it 42-31.
Jackson made a 3-pointer with about 10½ minutes to play that put the Bears up 49-34, and the Bears never looked back.
Jackson led the Big 12 in scoring and assists, the first major conference player to lead his league in both categories since Jason Terry did it at Arizona in 1998-99. Jackson also finished his career with at least one 3-pointer in 48 straight games.
Just reaching the semifinals, let alone the title game, was a first for Iowa’s program. Baylor lost the NIT title game to Penn State in 2009.