The final score is not indicative of how close this game was. Baylor started this game on a 23-10 run, hitting 3 three-pointers and collecting every rebound available. KU had their own run, but Baylor still led by 6 at the half thanks to rebounding, outside shooting, and defense.
The defense was excellent all game. They kept KU out of the paint for most of the game, and it wasn't until the refs decided to call things tight that Baylor began to foul. The Bears got as close as 57-59 with four minutes to go before they went cold from the floor. The looks were good - several wide open - but the ball just didn't go in. That's why Baylor lost this game. The refs interjected themselves in a couple of important moments, and they let the Jayhawks get away with a couple of things, but when you miss open shots in a close game, you can't pin it on the refs.
Let's think a bit more positively, though. I, for one, expected Baylor to get blown out in the 2nd half, and that never happened. Baylor held a lead until 9 minutes remaining in the game, and the game was within reach until about two minutes left when Kelly Oubre hit a dagger three from the top of the arc. The Bears stayed competitive throughout, and they never quit fighting.
Rico Gathers, in an impressive offensive game, led Baylor in scoring with 18 points. He scored in every which way, hitting long jumpers, jump hooks, free throws, and put backs. Perhaps the most surprising thing, however, was he collected only 8 total rebounds. Kansas did a good job of focusing on him when the ball came off the rim, often getting two bodies in his way. All that attention freed up other players, though. Royce O'Neale finished with a game high 9 rebounds, followed by Taurean Prince's 8. O'Neale was only 1-8 from the floor, but he was a huge contributor in every other way. He finished with 9 boards, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Prince was only 1-7 from deep and missed 2 wide open threes back-to-back in the 2nd half. Sometimes good shots just don't fall. Process of results.
Kenny Chery connected on 5 of 10 bombs to finish with 17 points. He took three of those in a single possession, helped by offensive rebounds from O'Neale and Prince. Lester Medford didn't have a great game, but he did try to kill Cliff Alexander with a tomahawk dunk, so we still love him. Al Freeman suffered a poor 2nd half, including 2 back-to-back turnovers that helped KU stay close.
Oubre was incredible from deep, hitting 4 of 6 and finishing with 18 points. Perry Ellis also contributed 18 while shooting 7-11 from the floor and 4-5 from the line. He had an excellent start to the 2nd half and provided the Jayhawks with the offensive spark they needed. Landen Lucas was big off the bench for Bill Self in the 2nd half. He tallied 9 points and 4 rebounds while contesting shots inside and drawing fouls. He finished 5-5 from the line.
Overall, the result was expected, but the game itself was much better than anticipated. This was an impressive showing by Baylor. This was the first time in Baylor's history that they took a lead into the half in Lawrence, and not until the end when fouls and forced shots inflated the deficit did the game slip from the Bears' reach. Baylor is now 6-6 in conference with only one more semi-automatic loss on the schedule (at Iowa State). Otherwise, Baylor has a good chance to finish the regular season on a 5-1 run if they can defend home court and steal a game in Austin.
Here are the stats, per ESPN:
|Royce O'Neale, F||1-8||1-3||2-2||4||5||9||6||2||0||0||3||5|
|Rico Gathers, F||6-9||0-0||6-8||2||6||8||0||1||1||2||4||18|
|Johnathan Motley, F||1-4||0-0||2-2||1||2||3||1||0||0||2||3||4|
|Kenny Chery, G||6-15||5-10||0-0||0||0||0||3||0||0||1||3||17|
|Lester Medford, G||1-5||1-2||1-2||1||1||2||3||1||0||2||5||4|
|Taurean Prince, F||5-13||1-7||3-4||3||5||8||0||1||1||3||2||14|
|Al Freeman, G||1-2||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0||1||0||2||2||2|
|Perry Ellis, F||7-11||0-0||4-5||0||6||6||0||1||1||3||3||18|
|Cliff Alexander, F||2-5||0-0||0-2||2||3||5||1||0||1||1||1||4|
|Kelly Oubre Jr., G||6-9||4-6||2-2||1||5||6||1||1||0||0||1||18|
|Frank Mason III, G||1-5||0-2||3-4||0||4||4||8||1||0||2||1||5|
|Wayne Selden Jr., G||3-6||1-4||8-9||0||3||3||4||0||0||2||3||15|
|Jamari Traylor, F||0-1||0-0||0-0||1||1||2||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Landen Lucas, F||2-3||0-0||5-5||3||1||4||1||1||0||1||3||9|
|Devonte Graham, G||0-1||0-1||2-2||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1||2|
|Brannen Greene, G||1-6||1-5||0-0||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||2||3|