KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perry Jones III boarded a plane with his teammates earlier this week to head to Kansas City, Mo., and that’s a big deal. Because it’s something the 6-foot-11 sophomore wasn’t allowed to do at this time last year after being suspended by the NCAA right before the Bears left for the Big 12 Championship.
So this week, when the future NBA lottery pick walked onto the flight, his teammates showed their appreciation.
“They all gave me a round of applause for being able to show up here and being able to play in this tournament,” Jones said.
A standing ovation would be warranted after Thursday’s contest. Jones took his game to another level against Kansas State, scoring a career-high 31 points while recording 11 rebounds. The former top recruit, who scored just four points in the previous matchup against K-State, made 11-of-14 from the field on Thursday and connected on both of his 3-point attempts.
“My teammates told me to open my whole arsenal, meaning do what I can do” Jones said. “I’ve been shooting a lot after practice, making consistent shots after practice. So it only felt right to take the shots I was taking in the game because I made them in practice.”
Jones scored in every way imaginable — he put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket, hit mid-range jumpers and 3s. He scored on dunks, layups and tip-ins. Needless to say, he was good.
“I think throughout the year he’s received a lot of negativity,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “He’s one of those guys that the more you build them up, the better he is. I think you guys saw a game in which he was feeling good going into it.”
“I had the most fun today I had all year,” Jones said.
K-State struggles against Baylor’s three guards
Baylor’s starting lineup typically consists of essentially three forwards and two guards. And that was the case on Thursday, until Scott Drew made an adjustment and went to a three-guard lineup that consisted of A.J. Walton and Pierre Jackson, who both can play point guard, and Brady Heslip, one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.
“Those guys (K-State) can really play defense,” Heslip said. “Coach told us we’ve really got to guard today and that’s what we did. The three-guard lineup allows us to be fast but also guard at the same time.”
Walton scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and had four steals in 32 minutes. Heslip added 15 points on 6-of-11 accuracy from the floor, and Jackson scored 13 points, had eight assists and just two turnovers. It’s safe to say the lineup worked out pretty well.
“The three guards really helped us on the offensive end and helped us to get some easy transition baskets,” Drew said.
Martin said it also gave the Wildcats problems on the offensive end.
“Defensively, when they went to their man, Scott decided to go with the three guards,” the K-State head coach said. “That really caused major problems for us running our offense.”
Struggles in opening game continue for Cats
K-State has now lost four of its last five in the first game of the Big 12 Championship. The only time the Wildcats have won a game in the conference tournament under Martin occurred in 2010, when K-State, the two seed that year, made it all the way to the championship game. The Wildcats have lost all three of their games in the 4/5 matchup under Martin.