Baylor dunked its way into the NCAA South Regional final.
Top-seeded Kentucky is waiting with the nation’s most imposing deterrent to the Bears’ hopes for another jamfest Sunday.
Quincy Acy had four of Baylor’s seven dunks in a 75-70 regional semifinal win over Xavier on Friday night. The highlight was his one-handed slam over 7-footer Kenny Frease on an alley-oop pass. The play found an immediate home on YouTube.
The next test is tougher. Kentucky’s 6-foot-10 Anthony Davis leads the nation with 169 blocked shots. The Wildcats’ total of 317 rejections also leads the nation, according to STATS LLC.
Clearly, Baylor’s path to the basket — and the Final Four — won’t be easy.
Acy said he and the Bears can’t back down from the challenge inside posed by Davis and the Wildcats.
“We’ve gone against great shot-blockers before,” Acy said Saturday.
“Obviously, he’s the best in the NCAA, but we can’t shy away from him. We have to attack.”
Acy, who is 6-7 and 235 pounds, can’t match Davis in height, but he’s also an imposing presence. Burly, bearded and physical, Acy had 20 points and 15 rebounds against Xavier.
After the game, Musketeers coach Chris Mack joked that he wanted to see Acy’s birth certificate.
“I think it might be my hairline,” Acy said. “That might be it. Prematurely bald. I’ve accepted it. I get a lot of rag from my teammates. It’s cool.”
Acy is making his second trip to the Elite Eight.
Baylor also was one win from the Final Four in 2010 when it lost to eventual national champion Duke.
Now the third-seeded Bears may be better equipped for another shot.
Kentucky coach John Calipari and Davis said Baylor is a good match for the Wildcats’ size and athleticism. Perry Jones III (6-11, 235) and Quincy Miller (6-9, 210) join Acy on the front line. Senior Anthony Jones (6-10, 195) is a top reserve and former starter.
“This team is very talented, athletic, very long,” Davis said. “It’ll be a great matchup for us. It’s going to be a battle of who wants it more. Both teams are great offensively and defensively.”
Like Davis, Jones is projected as a lottery pick in the NBA draft. He said he won’t be drawn into making Sunday’s game a personal battle with Kentucky’s star.
“No, I’m looking forward to playing team basketball,” Jones said. “I don’t want to feed into that because we haven’t fed into that all year, and we’ve been successful. Last thing I want to do is feed into that, trying to go one-on-one the whole game and not play team basketball, because our team will lose.”
Davis, who had three blocks but only nine points in Kentucky’s 102-90 regional semifinal win over Indiana, said he’s looking forward to the challenge provided by Baylor’s inside players.
“Definitely. I always look forward to a challenge, and I think Baylor brings a challenge,” Davis said. “They attack the rim. They’re very athletic, and they can dunk the ball and finish above the rim. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully we prevail.”
Acy’s powerful jams motivate his teammates.
“Being that he’s probably one of the best dunkers in the nation, y’all probably have seen the bench,” guard Pierre Jackson said. “We all get excited. On the defensive end, it just makes us want to get another one for him. Try to get another stop and get another one for Acy.”
Acy said he watched a replay of his one-handed jam against Xavier.
“I still think it’s not my best dunk,” he said. “I still feel my best dunk is yet to come. I haven’t had one like I want yet, but it was a great dunk.”