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Quick start lifts Baylor past Xavier 75-70

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Xavier's Kenny Frease (32) is defended by Baylor's Fred Ellis (3) and is fouled by Quincy Acy (4) during the first half of Friday's NCAA Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Baylor's Quincy Acy (4) slams the ball over Xavier's Kenny Frease (32) during the second half of Friday's NCAA Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Baylor's Pierre Jackson (55) runs into Xavier's Mark Lyons during the second half of Friday's NCAA Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

ATLANTA -- Coming into his team's NCAA South Regional semifinal, Baylor coach Scott Drew knew a big early lead didn't necessarily mean much against Xavier.

Sure enough, the Musketeers didn't seem fazed when the third-seeded and No. 9 nationally ranked Bears ran out to as much as an 18-point first-half lead.

But Baylor was able to keep pesky Xavier at arm's length most of the way thanks to double-doubles by Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson and advanced to the Elite Eight for the second time in the last three season with a 75-70 win at the Georgia Dome on Friday night.

"I think we got out to a tremendous start, but you've got to give a lot of credit to Xavier," Drew said. "We knew it was going to be a 40-minute game. They'd come back in their first two (tournament) games. ... They're just a tough team.

"We're just fortunate to move on. Any time you win in March, it's a good win."

Baylor (30-7) was able to come up with that big win behind a big effort from big men Acy (20 points, 15 rebounds) and Perry Jones III (14 points, five boards), plus a strong effort in the backcourt led by Jackson, who scored 16 points and dished out 10 of the Bears' 21 assists against just 13 turnovers.

Ultimately, the game came down Baylor's game-opening run that forced Xavier (23-13) to play catch-up the rest of the way.

Acy and Brady Heslip took control early, with each scoring four points as Baylor began the game on a 14-2 run over the first 4:57 after the opening tip.

And the Bears kept up the pressure, answering Jeff Robinson's tip-in with an 8-2 run on a 3-pointer by Heslip, two jumpers by Quincy Miller and a Deuce Bello free throw to push the lead to as much as 22-6 by the 11:33 mark of the first half.

They built that lead on hot shooting as they hit nine of their first 11 (81.3 percent) field goal attempts, while Xavier managed just two of their first 10 shots from the floor.

"Coming into the game, we talked about not falling behind early, which had plagued us against Notre Dame and Lehigh," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "But it's easier said than done. Baylor's extremely talented."

The lead was 33-16 after a thunderous dunk by Acy with 5:21 left in the half, but a flagrant foul by the 6-foot-7, 235-pound senior seconds later on Xavier big man Kenny Frease helped shift momentum towards the Musketeers.

The 7-0, 275-pound senior hit both free throws, and added a layup on the ensuing possession before later hitting a jumper along the left baseline and another layup to lead an 13-0 run that pulled Xavier to within 33-29 after Mark Lyons' free throw with 40 seconds left in the first half.

"Yeah, it was definitely a turning point," said Frease, who finished the game with 18 points. "Being able to score four points within whatever it was -- 15 seconds -- that definitely is a boost.

"I think we sort of woke up on the defensive end, too. We were able to make a really good run."

But after Baylor went 5:11 without a point, Jackson broke the long scoreless streak with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 10 seconds left in the half.

The Bears' once commanding lead was just 35-29 heading into intermission, but Jackson's shot helped them regain their composure.

"I knew we needed a bucket, and coach called a play," Jackson said. "Quincy Acy set up a great screen and I decided to get a quick shot up in case we could get rebound. And it just happened to go in (and gave us) a good lead."

Tu Holloway and the Musketeers kept coming at Baylor in the second half, with the 6-0 senior guard scoring six of his game-high 22 points in a four-minute span to pull Xavier as close as 46-42 after a pair of Holloway free throws with 13:27 to play.

But every time it seemed like Xavier would finally reach the top of the mountain, Baylor would come up with a huge basket.

Even when Holloway hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to finally pull the Musketeers to within one possession at 71-68, the Bears were able to get the ball in the hands of their best free throw shooter, Heslip.

And the 6-2 sophomore hit four straight from the line in the final 18 seconds, part of his 11 points, to salt the game away and send Baylor into Sunday's regional final against either Kentucky or Indiana.