It’s still impossible to believe this happened. Baylor just pulled off their most shocking win of the decade. Per ESPN stats, Baylor had a 1.1% chance to win when they were down 62-45 with 8:44 left in the game. To put that in perspective, Baylor had a 2.2% chance to beat Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. A contest where the Bears trailed by over 20 points in the first half.
Texas went insanely hot from three. Texas Tech went 16-of-26 from three against Kansas and won by 29. Texas went 15-of-26 from three and lost to Baylor. It’s nearly impossible to lose shooting that well. Texas scored 1.73 points per possession when they fired a three. That’s the expected point value of an 85% free throw shooter taking two free throws.
Teams just don’t win when facing nights like Baylor did. Baylor’s defense made a few mistakes in the first half, but Texas’ shooters were just going insane. The Longhorns entered tonight 245th in 3-point percentage. They normally shoot 33% from beyond the arc. Tonight they hit 58% of their shots. It was their highest 3-point percentage of the season, and their second highest number of made threes.
Baylor found a way to win though. They made their massive comeback with five men that will all be back next season. First, Mark Vital went 7-of-7 from the free throw line. He misses just one, and Baylor doesn’t make it to overtime. Vital shot below 40% from the free throw line during most of non-conference.
Second, Mario Kegler was superb. He had 24 points and went 4-of-6 from three. Kegler was below 10% from 3-point range during non-conference. Most importantly, he drove with seven seconds left and drew a foul. He made both free throws to secure a one point victory.
Third, Jared Butler was a monster. The freshman took over point guard duties late in the game for a hobbled Makai Mason. With Baylor down 81-75 in overtime, he dribbled up court and was real and spectacular:
My favorite play of the game. Jared Butler just raining a three in isolation. He misses, even Texas probably couldn’t have blown that lead. He did not miss: pic.twitter.com/TCZjpLhlOQ— Kendall (@kendallkaut) February 28, 2019
Butler was Baylor’s offense for most of the overtime. He nailed a long 2-point jumper to bring Baylor within one late.
Fourth, Devonte Bandoo kept making threes. He went 4-of-4 from three and had 16 points. He’s the league’s second best 3-point shooter during Big 12 play. If he gets any space, he’s nearly automatic.
Finally, there’s Freddie Gillespie. He finished with 10 rebounds and blocked Matt Coleman’s shot near the hoop at the end of overtime. Gillespie is a former walk-on and division III player. He also added eight big points.
This win was a testament to the 2018-2019 Baylor Bears. It just didn’t seem to be Baylor’s year. Tristan Clark remains the team’s best player. He’s been out for the season with a knee injury. A healthy Mason is their second best player. He’s not close to healthy. King McClure is likely the third best player, and he missed the last five games with a knee injury.
After dropping a home game to Kansas, Baylor stood 9-6 and 1-2 in Big 12 play. They went forward without Clark. Since then, Baylor is 10-3. They’ve won in Ames and defeated a top 15 Texas Tech. They’ve won despite only having one player (Vital) start every game this season.
Nights like this shouldn’t happen. But a season like this shouldn’t either. Baylor has defied the odds all year. They’ll make the NCAA Tournament again, and they are guaranteed to finish over .500 yet again. They’ve done that every year this decade. Among Big 12 teams, Kansas is the only other team to achieve that feat.
If the Bears get Mason and McClure back to full-strength, this team can beat anyone. And if they don’t get back to 100%, the Bears have proven they can win when they have a 98.9% chance to lose. This might be Baylor’s year.