Baylor claimed an enormous win at home in a must-win scenario, holding Kansas to 6/31 from three for a 80-64 final score.
Jo Lual-Acuil and Manu Lecomte were fantastic in this game, doing everything Baylor needed. Acuil was aggressive with the ball in his hands, attacking space for layups, spinning off contact for hooks, crossing over Mitch Lightfoot on the perimeter, and facing up Azubuike. Kansas had no answer for Acuil until it went zone in the second half while Baylor had bench players in the game. When the starters plus Nuni Omot came back, Lecomte took over with great aggression and shooting, eviscerating any defender Kansas put on him and draining two 26-foot threes in a key stretch when Kansas had managed to bring the game back to a 49-51 Baylor lead.
When the Bears went on a 2 minute drought to allow Kansas to bring the game back to 49-51 near the 9-minute mark, Scott Drew went to a Lecomte - Jake Lindsey - Mark Vital -Omot - Acuil lineup, and it was all sunshine from there. After Lindsey and Devonte’ Graham traded threes, Vital and Lagerald Vick traded short jumpers . Vick would make another short push shot in the lane to bring the score to a 58-56 Baylor lead.
Then Lecomte took over with a personal 8-0 run, nailing a floater followed by those two 26-footers to stretch the lead back to the 10-point advantage Baylor had carried into the second half. Baylor used its defense to pressure Kansas’ shooters in desperate shots down the stretch, preserving its lead to finally beat Kansas for the first time in eleven attempts.
That lineup mentioned above was excellent for Baylor all game. Those five started the game, when Baylor’s defensive energy and offensive aggression had Kansas scrambled. That unit managed to deflect or steal passes, attack in transition, and managed to keep Kansas’ skilled guards out of transition. Drew might have finally found his combination to close out games.
The first half was a near fought game until the final 6:44, with the Bears dominating on defense to close the half on a 13-2 run with a 30-20 lead. Baylor’s active zone gave Kansas fits all half, generating transition points for Baylor on turnovers and forcing tough shots fort he Jayhawks. The perimeter of Baylor’s zone was aggressive, staying out on shooters and closing spaces quickly when the ball got inside. Azubuike got very few good looks inside, while Graham and Vick had only one or two quality looks from deep.
Kansas shot only 2-13 from three (15.4%) and 7-26 (26.9%) overall. Baylor closed the half 13-27 (48.1%) overall and 3-7 (42.9%) from three. Acuil was aggressive on the offensive end and was able to score from all three levels. He hit a huge three to answer Graham’s three and reclaim a 20-18 lead at the 6:26 mark; he blew past Lightfoot when left with space at the top of the key; and he made some great moves in the face-up game against Azubuike. Acuil led all scorers with 11 points at halftime. Lecomte was aggressive in transition and looking for his shot, typically a good sign for Baylor’s offense. Maston and Omot attacked mismatches when Kansas switched on screens, taking advantage of KU’s lack of size on the front line.
Baylor’s energy to start the game was phenomenal. The Bears attacked in transition, caused havoc on defense, and managed to limit Kansas’ transition opportunities, where the Jayhawks are most effective. Baylor’s only real areas of weakness were turnovers (6) and defensive rebounding. Kansas managed to pull down 8 offensive rebounds, despite their lack of size.
Graham and Malik Newman made a game of it in the middle of the second half. They managed to attack with the dribble on the pick-and-roll, getting into the paint and to the rim for short push shots and layups. When those two were aggressive, Baylor had few answers. Graham finished the game with a game high 23 points, and Newman scored 14 off the bench.
Azubuike and Lightfoot were in foul trouble all game, a huge factor for Baylor. Azubuike picked up his fourth foul barely two minutes into the second half, and Lightfoot would eventually foul out with 2:18 remaining on a game-sealing and-one drive by Lecomte.
Acuil finished the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and a huge block to deny Graham a layup down the stretch of the game. Lecomte, after being limited to only 5 points for most of the game, scored 13 points in the final 7 minutes of the game to finish with 18 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor and 6 beautiful assists. He found Lindsey and Omot open in the corners time and again. His dribble-penetration was fantastic. Today, Baylor had the Manu Lecomte it has needed all season.
Baylor now stands at 5-7 in Big XII play with a signature victory over a top ten team. The remaining schedule might be the toughest in the country with three ranked teams at home and the other games on the road, but if the Bears can ride this swell, the Tournament is still within reach.