Pierre Jackson knew he was a better player than he showed in his return to Las Vegas on Thursday. So he essentially sought and received a reprieve Friday.
The former Desert Pines High School point guard bailed out sixth-ranked Baylor with two big 3-point baskets — one in regulation, the other in overtime — and the Bears stayed unbeaten with an 83-81 victory over West Virginia in the final of the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena.
In front of most of his family and many friends, Jackson scored 23 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, helping Baylor improve to 12-0. A day after being held to six points in a 72-59 win over Saint Mary’s, Jackson bounced back by making 9 of 16 shots, including 4 of 7 3-point attempts.
“It feels great to come home and win a game like this and be the MVP. But as long as we got the win, I’m happy,” Jackson said.
Baylor coach Scott Drew said having Jackson on the floor was the difference.
“Pierre is so quick, he can make plays other guys can’t,” Drew said. “You’re down three with 30 seconds to go, most teams don’t win this game. But we’ve got some experienced kids and they managed to hold it together.”
Jackson had help. Brady Heslip also had a hot hand, making five 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 19 points. The Boston College transfer has the green light to shoot and took full advantage against the Mountaineers (9-3).
“That’s what they brought me here to do,” said Heslip, who is from Burlington, Ontario, and whose uncle is former Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano. “They were coming underneath the ball screens and that was giving me a split second to be open. When I saw that was happening, I just let it go and they went in.”
After rallying from a 10-point deficit in the first half, Baylor pulled ahead 52-42 early in the second and appeared ready to pull away. But West Virginia rallied behind senior forward Kevin Martin (28 points, 17 rebounds) to take a 76-73 lead in the final minute.
Jackson forced overtime, hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing with 27 seconds to play. He also made a 3 from the top of the key early in overtime.
Ultimately, Quincy Acy’s layup with 2:15 left accounted for Baylor’s winning margin. West Virginia had one last chance to force a second overtime, but Jabarie Hinds’ running shot from just inside the free-throw line with 3 seconds remaining didn’t drop.
“We weren’t mentally tough enough,” Martin said. “We didn’t guard as a team and you can’t do that and expect to beat a team like Baylor.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wasn’t looking for any credit for being competitive against a top-10 team.
“We had a great chance to win and we let it get away,” Huggins said. “We can’t take plays off. You’ve got to do your job every day.”
In Friday’s other games:
■ Brad Waldow and Matthew Dellavedova scored 17 points each, powering Saint Mary’s past Missouri State, 77-61.
■ Kennesaw State made nine free throws in the final 1:47 to hold off Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 69-65.
■ Tennessee Tech got 22 points apiece from Kevin Murphy and Jud Dillard to defeat Bethune Cookman, 67-59.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at 702-387-2913 and at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.