Baylor made a bit of a miracle run in the closing couple of minutes to bring the score closer than it ever should have been. Kansas was coasting to the end, but Baylor is a team that plays with immense effort. They were lucky enough to hit a couple of shots and bring the score to 72-68 with less than 20 seconds remaining. Kansas managed to hold on, but Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears continue to show admirable effort despite adversity.
Baylor’s loss to Kansas wasn’t its worst loss of the day. Just before the game tipped off, the team announced sophomore forward Tristan Clark would miss the remainder of the season following knee surgery. There is still no official word on Clark’s injury.
Kansas’ talent dominated this game for all but a 7 minute stretch during the first half. With Clark out, Scott Drew had to rely on Freddie Gillespie and Flo Thamba to fill minutes at the center position. Neither of those players was capable of competing against Dedric Lawson (17 points). Thamba shows flashes, but he is young and slight. Gillespie simply isn’t good enough. He plays with effort, but he can’t do much of anything against talent. Add to the frontline talent discrepancy KU’s superior perimeter athletes and unreal shooting day (9-16 from three, their 2nd best 3-point shooting game of the season) and Baylor really never stood a chance today.
Makai Mason (11 points) and Mark Vital (10 points, 9 rebounds) made every effort to keep Baylor in this game. Mason drove into the lane over and over, but to little effect. KU’s defense could largely ignore his teammates on the perimeter (or in the lane when Gillespie was on the floor), allowing them to collapse into the paint and swarm Mason. Vital added some truly spectacular offensive rebounds (finishing with 8 total) in traffic and played with great effort as always, but he was too short to guard Lawson down low and couldn’t finish near the rim.
Freshman point guard Jared Butler (14 points, 4 assists) again demonstrated his abilities, draining three triples in the first half and two back-to-back during Baylor’s 18-6 run. He is a legitimate threat from deep and is capable of snaking into the lane for the finger roll. He’ll build his game and become a very solid college point guard. Devonte Bandoo also had a solid performance with 11 points off the bench. Senior King McClure led the team in rebounds with 10 boards along with 2 assists and 2 steals.
While the second half was all Kansas, Baylor had its own stretch of dominance in the first half following a rough first 10 minutes. Baylor had difficulty adjusting during the first few minutes to Clark’s absence. Kansas opened this game on an 18-2 run, and Baylor’s first field goal was a Vital put-back nearly 9 minutes into the game. The defense, however, kept the Bears in the game and eventually ignited some offense. Matthew Mayer hammered down a transition dunk following Vital’s score, and Baylor started their own 18-6 run over the next 7 minutes to close the margin 24-22. Butler drained 3 triples as part of that run, including back-to-backs that ignited the crowd and his teammates. Kansas finished the half with a flurry of scoring and a few Baylor turnovers to extend the lead back to 35-25. Baylor did a good job entering halftime with that score, given KU’s shooting. The Jayhawks shot 50% from the floor and 5-10 from three, including a ridiculous 6-8 night from deep for Legerald Vick.
Baylor is talent-deficient this season, even more so with Clark out, but they show great stretches of energy and grit. Even when their own mistakes or poor shooting put them far behind, the effort never wains.
With Clark out, Mario Kegler - who has been a source of great disappointment thus far since beginning the season after his 6-game suspension - needs to step up on both ends. His defense is acceptable, but his offensive game is far more limited than was advertised. He needs to take ownership of the inside and use his bulk to bully smaller defenders in the post and on the glass. Matthew Mayer, who played more within the offense today, should see increased minutes, as well. He has possibly more scoring talent than anyone left on the active roster, and Baylor needs that. He nearly had a sizzling reverse slam early in the second half, and he plays with excellent effort on the offensive end. His defense is still abysmal, but he brings value.
Baylor’s next game is Monday in Stillwater against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at 8pm CT.