Night Line: Quincy Acy Keeps Baylor From Falling ApartPosted by EJacoby on February 21st, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
Since winning its first 17 games of the season, Baylor has struggled mightily against tougher competition and played mediocre .500 basketball in its past 10 games. Facing a 10-point halftime deficit on Monday night at Texas, it looked as if the Bears were going to drop another game and confirm beliefs that this team lacks the toughness to win big games. But forward Quincy Acy stopped the wheels from falling off, going for 14 of his 22 points in the second half and lifting his team to a 77-72 road win over the Longhorns. While Baylor has been unable to play to its potential in the Big 12, the senior Acy has displayed consistent 100% effort to ensure that his team cannot be counted out just yet. It remains to be seen if Baylor’s talented roster will ever produce elite results, but the leadership from Acy is there to prevent a complete meltdown from occurring.
From a pure talent perspective, Acy is not even one of the top two forwards on this Baylor team. Freshman Quincy Miller and sophomore Perry Jones III are both projected 2012 NBA Draft lottery picks, according to DraftExpress. While both players have tremendous upside as impact offensive players, both have also struggled to establish themselves as reliable players in difficult games. Miller was a complete non-factor on Monday and failed to score in 22 minutes, while Jones shot 3-14 for just 10 points and three rebounds in another disappointing effort. But team leader Acy was a man among boys in the paint, physically out-working and out-hustling everyone else on the floor for one of the best games of his career. He finished with 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to secure a big victory for the Bears that at least temporarily halts concerns that they could be in a major slide heading into the Big 12 Tournament.
Offensively, the Baylor offense runs mainly through point guard Pierre Jackson, which has been both a good and bad thing this season. With neither Jones nor Miller exhibiting a consistent desire to take over games, Jackson’s confidence to take big shots has been huge for the team down the stretch. He is undoubtedly a great playmaker and averages 12.7 points and 5.9 assists per game (#2 in the Big 12) as a pleasant surprise for a team that had question marks about its guard play to begin the season. However, Jackson is not your traditional pass-first guard, as he loves to look for his shot from the outside or on drives to the rim, and he also takes plenty of risks with the ball leading to 3.6 turnovers per game, third highest in the conference. Acy is just the fourth option offensively and has taken at least 30 less shots than Jackson, Jones, and Miller this season. Yet he has been their most efficient offensive player, averaging a team-high 58.2% shooting from the field and getting to the free throw line 140 times, 45 more than the next player on the team. Again, it’s not the raw talent but rather the constant motor and persistence inside that allows Acy to make things happen offensively.
Above all else, defending the paint is where Acy is invaluable to the Bears. His 2.1 blocks per game ranks second in the conference, which is fairly remarkable considering his shortish 6’7” frame. Jones and Miller, meanwhile, are 6’11” and 6’9”, respectively, yet neither averages more than 0.63 blocks per night. Acy’s protection of the paint becomes a huge asset for Baylor when its defense breaks down. He does at least get some help from Cory Jefferson, who plays just 11.5 minutes per night but also swats 1.4 shots per game. On Monday night, not a single Bear blocked a shot besides Acy, who produced his consistent output with two swats on the night including a crucial one late in the game to thwart a Texas drive in the paint in a one-possession game.
Quincy Acy dispels the notion that Baylor is a ‘soft’ team, but the Bears need that same kind of effort from all of its players if it wants to become a serious contender. Scott Drew has brought in a wealth of talent to Waco, but he continues to draw criticism for a seeming inability to develop that talent into the most effective basketball players possible. Until Perry Jones starts to take over games with his NBA-level skill and athleticism, the Bears will never be able to reach their peak potential as one of the most talented teams in the nation. Last year, Texas and Villanova were similarly both top 10 teams late in the year but saw their seasons turn disastrous without any leadership to harness and push the talent on the team. Baylor has the potential to suffer a similar fate, but Acy will make sure that his team is never an easy out for an opponent. Stay tuned to see what happens to Baylor down the stretch and whether or not they can start to peak again heading into postseason play.