Sixteen times Baylor had entered Allen Fieldhouse. They’ve had the No. 2 team. They’ve been 17-0. They’ve had a top 10 pick. They’ve led by five with less than two minutes remaining. And each time, often in heartbreaking fashion, the Bears have fallen.
But Baylor didn’t care about the past today. All streaks end. And on January 11, 2020, the best team in the Big 12, Baylor, knocked off Kansas 67-55. The road to a Big 12 title goes through Waco. And Baylor has as good of a case as anyone to be the No. 1 team in America.
This seemed like another day of Kansas being too much for Baylor. Baylor’s three previous best teams—2010, 2012 and 2017—have fallen on years where Kansas has been incredible. And early in the first half, Kansas led 20-15. Marcus Garrett, a man who entered the game with nine made threes, drilled a triple. Devon Dotson, a sub 35% 3-point shooter, made a three as well. And Baylor started 1-of-6 from deep. They forced 10 Kansas turnovers. It didn’t seem like Baylor had a path to win this one.
Baylor took over after that. The Bears ended the half on a 22-4 run. They finished the first half 3-of-3 from three. Jared Butler scored 31 points at Allen Fieldhouse last season; that’s more than any visiting player scored there. He ended the half with 12 points. Davion Mitchell switched screens impressively on defense, preventing Kansas from getting much going. And Baylor led 37-24 at halftime.
Devon Dotson, one of Kansas’ two stars, left the game early in the second half with a hip injury. But Baylor scored two points in the first eight minutes of the half, and Kansas cut the lead to five with 13 minutes remaining. Scott Drew dialed up a play for Freddie Gillespie, and with a nice screen by MaCio Teague, Gillespie threw down a dunk to put Baylor up seven.
With Kansas only down five, Baylor scored on their next three possessions. Each was a testament to what Baylor is today. Matt Mayer beautifully found a former UNC-Asheville player, Teague, in the corner for a three. Then Freddie Gillespie, a division three player and walk-on not long ago, made two jump shots. The Bears led by 10 with 8:48 left when Dotson reentered.
Jared Butler went to work though. He finished with 22 points on 18 shots. He had 31 in that building last year. The Jayhawks went under a screen against him late. He drilled a big three. Any hope left for the 16,300 in Lawrence, Kansas ended there.
Baylor’s defense was incredible. Azubuike entered the game the front-runner for Big 12 player of the year. He had six points and might have watched Butler steal the award.
This was the best regular season win in Baylor history. Given how difficult it is to win in Allen Fieldhouse—Bill Self has 13 losses there in 17 years coaching—there’s a case this is a tougher win than some of the magnificent victories of the last decade.
Baylor should be the No. 1 ranked team on Monday. Maybe the voters won’t recognize it. But with a team this talented and a coaching staff this good, the first year of the decade might belong to Baylor. They are coached by a man that hasn’t lost to Bill Self in Allen Fieldhouse this decade. That might just be enough to win it all.