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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bears advance to semifinals of NIT

Baylor’s Mamadou Diene, back, reacts with teammate Kevin Rogers (23) at the end of a victory against Auburn. Baylor defeated Auburn in the quarterfinals of the NIT, 74-72, on Tuesday at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn, Ala.

Baylor’s Mamadou Diene, back, reacts with teammate Kevin Rogers (23) at the end of a victory against Auburn. Baylor defeated Auburn in the quarterfinals of the NIT, 74-72, on Tuesday at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn, Ala.

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— The Baylor Bears made big baskets, grabbed timely rebounds and dodged a few bullets.

Apparently, they’re getting the postseason formula down pretty well.

Curtis Jerrells rebounded a missed free throw then made 1-of-2 from the line with 6.9 seconds left and Auburn couldn’t convert two late chances to tie or pull ahead, helping the Bears advance to the semifinals of the NIT with a 74-72 victory on Tuesday night.

Kevin Rogers added 19 points and nine rebounds to help the Bears (23-14) extend their improbable run after finishing ninth in the Big 12 Conference and going 59 years without a postseason win.

They started the string with a league tournament that included upsets of Kansas and Texas.

“I think it shows great character,” Jerrells said. “We didn’t have the kind of season we wanted during the conference season, but we pulled together. We found the energy to go into the conference tournament, do some damage, and then just continue on from there.”

The Tigers (24-12), who matched the second-best win total in program history, had two chances in the final seconds to at least tie it.

Trailing 73-72, Auburn forced a turnover on the inbound pass with 16 seconds left. “I should probably have come up with a better play,” Baylor coach Scott Drew quipped.

DeWayne Reed attempted a leaner and was fouled, but missed both free throws and Jerrells rebounded the second.

“I came up to the line and missed two free throws that could have tied the game or you win it,” Reed said. “It hurts bad.”

Rasheem Barrett’s three-point try bounced off the the rim at the buzzer.

“I had a wide-open look and just hit back rim,” Barrett said. “I just didn’t knock it down.

“I was taking whatever they were going to give me. To tell the truth, it looked good. It looked real good. When it hit back rim, I knew it was over.”

Baylor will play the St. Mary’s-San Diego State winner next Tuesday in New York, their first game at Madison Square Garden since the 1950 NCAA Final Four.

Kevin Rogers had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bears, who shot 51 percent. Jerrells added 16 points.

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