After losing 11 straight games to Kansas and sitting at just 4-7 in Big 12 play, not many expected the Bears to beat the Jayhawks. But Manu Lecomte told the media on Friday that, “I think we’re the team that’s learned the most. I think we’re ready to play them tomorrow.”
Lecomte was right. Baylor notched a dominant victory over Kansas, 80-64.
The win wasn’t easy though. With 9:28 left, Kansas cut the deficit to 51-49. After Baylor blew a 61-56 lead—with less than three minutes remaining—in Allen Fieldhouse, Baylor seemed on the path to another loss to Kansas.
Luckily, Lecomte took over. Kansas elected to play a 2-3 zone, which wasn’t too surprising given Baylor entered the contest as the second worst 3-point shooting team in the league. But Lecomte took his time and waited until Malik Newman shifted his attention to him. Then, he found Jake Lindsey for three:
The Jayhawks kept battling. Kansas was at 1.71 point per possession (PPP) midway through the half. To put that in perspective, if Baylor had fouled Devonte Graham—an 83% free throw shooter—on every possession, KU would have been expected to score fewer PPP.
But with Kansas scoring so many points, the Bears had to keep answering. And Lecomte did. KU moved well on this posession. Lecomte just moved better. He beat Newman at the top of the key, then hit a turnaround floater:
The Bears failed to score on their next two possessions. Baylor had a 60-56 lead. Kansas gave up an offensive rebound, and Lecomte received the ball with a fresh clock. He was 30 feet from the hoop. Bill Self would say after the game, “He (Lecomte) actually made two bad shots.” He didn’t have a problem making this one:
Maybe Lecomte just made bad shots. But he’s a career 40% 3-point shooter and has made over 200 threes in his college career. Scott Drew said, “If people want to leave Manu open, I’d like them to.” Kansas did. He made it, again:
On the next offensive possession, Baylor had a nine point lead. Nuni Omot said after the game, “We needed to have a lead by 10 over the last three minutes.... they would have started getting some calls because you know, that’s Kansas, and they get all the calls.”
Lecomte gave Omot the chance to make sure Kansas was not in a position to let the refs help them out. After making the floater earlier, Lecomte drove the lane and drew Svi Mykhailiuk’s attention. Once that happened, he hit Omot. Omot credited Lecomte for his confidence, noting, “Manu tells me to shoot every time I touch the ball.” Omot drilled the big shot:
Whether you agree with Omot or not about Kansas getting some help from the officials, the Jayhawks have certainly made their share of late comebacks. Even when it seems over, Kansas has made some wild comebacks. Their penchant for coming back is perhaps best evidenced by winning over West Virginia last season, despite being given just a .4% chance of victory because they trailed 64-50 with 2:06 left.
Lecomte might have made his toughest shot of the game with 2:20 left. He blew past Lagerald Vick—a constant in the two Baylor-Kansas games this season—and made an off-hand floater before Mitch Lightfoot fouled him:
Baylor had gone 1,800 days since beating Kansas in basketball. During the first 1,253 days of that streak, I’d graduated from Baylor and Kansas. It’d been a long time since Baylor beat Kansas; too long for those of us that deal with winter and live in Kansas City.
Lecomte stepped up when it mattered. Sure, he made some tough shots. But Lecomte was ready for the moment. Baylor’s leader came in confident and led his team to a win over a program they hadn’t defeated in five years. If he keeps this up, Baylor’s 2-7 start to Big 12 play will just be a note on Selection Sunday when Greg Gumbel reveals where Baylor is headed in the NCAA Tournament.