A Dennis layup gave Baylor a 64-59 lead with over a minute remaining in overtime of what had been a brutally ugly game for both teams. The Bears shot 33% overall, were 5 of 28 from three (18%), and — most painfully — 9-19 from the free throw line. The only place Kansas State could boast about much more success was at the line (17-22). Otherwise, the Wildcats’ offense seemed all game to lack any creator outside of Tylor Perry (18 points, 3-14 FG, 1-8 3PT), who only seemed to get to his game leading 18 by playing a titanic 43 minutes.
So it was fitting that, of course, the Bears would fail to score in the final minute of the game and surrender two devastating threes — including a back-breaking three by Arthur Kaluma (12 points, 3-6 3pt) that was compounded by a careless close-out foul by Ja’Kobe Walter to give KState a 4-point play and the 66-64 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Langston Love’s three didn’t go down, and that was essentially the game.
The difficulty of a loss like this is finding where, precisely, to lay the blame. Or if not the blame, the explanation. And in the end, the only true explanation is that Baylor shot inexplicably all game. Yes, the Bears fired up some ill-advised threes, but they do that every game, and a few of them usually go in. Yes, there were some dumb fouls, but this is college basketball. Those happen every game.
What doesn’t happen every game is the best three point shooting team in the nation shot so poorly it dropped more than a full percentage point for the season and is now number two in that category. And had Baylor shot their season average of 72% from the free throw line tonight, then that’s another 4-5 points that helps them hang around.
Tonight nothing was falling, though, and that amplifies the impact of everything else. The Bears surrendered 11 points off 11 turnovers. Kansas State ended up with 14 fast break points. The Wildcats defense was aggressive on ball coverages, but even after adjusting the Bears weren’t able to settle into the game. Were it the lack of calls in a very physical game, the loud environment, or just some strange hex that Jerome Tang (now 3-0 against his old team) has set in motion, comfort wasn’t something Baylor could find.
Yet I still come back to the same thing — Baylor lost because it didn’t hit shots they normally do. While it’s frustrating, it’s hard to be too mad at anyone in particular. Yes, I can quibble with some decisions Scott Drew made to play Jayden Nunn, who had a spectacular baseline cut and lay-in in the final seconds of regulation for what could have been the game-winner, more minutes than Ja’Kobe Walter (35 and 26, respectively), or Yves Missi more minutes than Josh Ojianwuna (24 and 22, respectively) when the physicality of the game is clearly wearing on the freshman more than the sophomore. But both Nunn and Walter committed poor fouls in crucial moments — Kaluma’s and-one for Walter, and a foul in transition by Nunn that let Perry tie it at the line — and neither center put together a complete game. Missi had 11 rebounds but was poor from the floor and the line, while Ojianwuna had an efficient 7 points but only 4 rebounds. There were no ready answers for Drew tonight.
Except, perhaps, for Langston Love (15 points, 5 rebounds). Love was the entirety of Baylor second half offense for the first ten minutes of the period. He had two of the meter three field goals in that stretch and assisted on the third. He took open, rhythm shots and generally seemed to be playing his game, as he has all of conference play. Love has been perhaps the most reliable scorer on the team these four games, and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his production as others like Jalen Bridges and Walter steady themselves out.
The Baylor Bears (14-3, 3-1) will have to shake this one off quickly. Their next game this Saturday will be their final time to play the Longhorns (12-14, 1-2) down in Austin, something Texas will be very geared up for after a poor loss to a bad West Virginia team this past Saturday. Last season Baylor started conference play 0-3. It’s been much better this year, but the Bears can’t get stuck in a rut if they hope to truly compete for the conference.