After an Ochai Agbaji dunk brought Kansas within 5 points with 10 minutes remaining, it looked like the Jayhawks had clawed their way back into the game. Then, Mark Vital elevated to throw down the alley-oop that sparked Baylor’s answer. Over the next three minutes, Jared Butler drained his seventh three on the night, followed by a pair of baskets from MaCio Teague and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua that pushed the lead back to 14 points.
Kansas answered Baylor’s 9-0 run with a 7-0 run of their own to bring the game back within reach. Baylor missed two open threes and turned the ball over three times to give Kansas the transition opportunities it needed to creep back into the game once again.
Then, who else but Butler ended the run with a deep three that settled the game.
Butler had the best game he’s had in the Ferrell Center and the best game since his freshman show out against the Jayhawks in 2019. With 8 assists and 7-9 3PT shooting, it’s not hard to argue this was Butler’s best game of his career. His line in tonight’s dominating performance was 30 points, 8 assists, 1 rebound, and 1 steal.
While Butler was the undeniable player of the game, Mark Vital delivered three plays that energized his team in a huge way. The third was the aforementioned dunk to answer Agbaji, but in the first half he put the exclamation mark on the Bears’ 11-2 run to open the game before putting Dajuan Harris in his place with a monster chase down block. The Kansas freshman foolishly tried to dunk in transition with Vital right behind him. From the fans’ vantage, you could see Vital pacing his steps to smash Harris’ shot off the backboard.
The ebbs and flows of the game largely centered around Baylor’s inability to hold onto the ball. The Bears coughed up 18 turnovers. This was only the third time this season that Baylor has turned the ball over more than their opponent. Baylor won those other games by 34 and 15. That Baylor won tonight without it coming down to the wire is yet another testament to the brilliance of the guards and the tenacity of the team defense. Kansas shot 53% from three but only 15-33 from two-point shots.
If not for Baylor’s turnovers and the three-point heroics of Agbaji and Christian Braun, this 8-point victory could have ballooned to an outright blowout. Kansas did what it had to do to stay in the game, but it was clear throughout that the Jayhawks - for a rare moment in the Big XII - were outshined in just about ever way.
Baylor came out sharp on both ends of the floor in the first half, jumping to a quick 11-2 lead in the opening 4 minutes. The Bears were connected on both ends, attacking the disjointed help defense of the Jayhawks and swarming to the paint anytime the ball entered the three-point line.
Butler scored 17 of his 30 points in the first half, en route to his best game in the Ferrell Center. He was lethal pulling up in the pick and roll when Kansas went under or played soft to defend the drive. When the closeouts did come, Butler glided to the rim for graceful lay-ins.
Flo Thamba had a standout half scoring 7 points, which is double his per game average. He also pulled down 4 boards and capably defending drives from Kansas’ guards.
The Bears’ defense smothered David McCormack in his foul-plagued 20 minutes of play. Much like Baylor’s treatment of Cockburn in the early game against Illinois, the Bears baited McCormack into careless fouls and swarmed him any time he touched the ball in the post. McCormack scored only 6 points with 4 rebounds.
Teague and Davion Mitchell were the only other Bears to score in double-digits with 13 and 10, respectively. They each chipped in 3 steals and played nearly impenetrable perimeter defense. Tchamwa Tchatchoua provided his patented Everyday Jon energy, running the floor harder than anyone.
Beating Kansas tonight gave Baylor a commanding three game lead in the Big XII. The Bears play again Saturday afternoon in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, followed by Kansas State in Waco before facing Auburn in the Big XII-SEC Showdown. If Baylor can maintain focus in these next two conference games, they will be in fantastic position to win the conference.