By Shehan Jeyarajah
Senior guard Brady Heslip could not hit the broad side of a barn for 39 minutes and 59 seconds. Heslip missed his first seven three-pointers against Kansas State and looked completely ineffective.
But with the game on the line, with time expiring, there is no one you would rather have shoot a game-tying three-pointer.
“Brady is a great shooter,” sophomore center Isaiah Austin said. “We tell him to shoot the ball, even when he’s missed a couple.”
Heslip’s three sent Baylor to overtime, where they would eventually go to double-overtime.
When the dust had settled, Baylor (16-9, 4-8) stole victory from the jaws of defeat in an 87-73 double-overtime victory against Kansas State (17-8, 7-5) on Saturday night in Waco.
For a half, it looked like Baylor had no chance against the Wildcats.
The Bears did not score for the first three minutes of action. Senior power forward Cory Jefferson missed two free throws and Heslip and Austin both missed threes before Jefferson slammed home an alley-oop for Baylor’s first points of the game.
Kansas State freshman Marcus Foster and junior Thomas Gipson each hit baskets to push the Kansas State lead to 4-2, but junior guard Kenny Chery would get an and-one to put Baylor up 5-4.
With the game tied at 10-10, sophomore forward D.J Johnson scored three layups and freshman guard Marcus Foster nailed a three to push the Kansas State lead out to 23-15. A game after scoring 49 points in the first half against TCU, the Bears trailed 30-21 at the half.
Baylor shot a paltry 8-for-30 from the field in the first half and only 2-for-14 from the three-point line. No player on the Bears shot over 50 percent for the half. Outside of Jefferson, Baylor shot 20.8 percent from the field and completed only five field goals.
Kansas State shot 46.4 percent from the field. Foster, junior forward Nino Williams and Johnson combined for 24 points on 66.7 percent from the field and 2-for-5 from three.
Baylor scored eight straight points to start the second half, forcing Bruce Weber to call a timeout after a layup by Chery that cut the lead to 30-29.
Senior guard Will Spralding struck back with an and-one jumper, but Cory Jefferson responded with a three-point play of his own. Kansas State came back and scored on two straight possessions to push their lead to 37-32.
Baylor failed to score on five straight possessions and turned the ball over on four possessions. Kansas State appeared to take control of the game when they pushed the lead out to 51-41 with 8:54 left on the night.
Baylor responded to the adversity with ten unanswered points over the course of three-and-a-half minutes, capped off by a transition layup from Chery. Kansas State would not die however, and held a 57-54 lead with 23 seconds left in the game.
Chery tried to score a quick two-pointer to give Baylor time, but the Kansas State defense did not give him any holes. He passed the ball out to senior guard Gary Franklin, who missed a three with six seconds left. Austin fought for the ball and shoved it out to Heslip.
And Heslip saved the season.
“All I remember is that when I caught the rebound, it probably looked like I traveled,” Austin said of th rebound. “I probably traveled, but I knew we needed three points. This is what we needed.”
Baylor and Kansas State played to a standstill in the first overtime. Chery had a mid-range jumper to win it with three seconds left, but missed to force a second overtime.
In the second overtime, sophomore forward Taurean Prince took over. The sophomore from San Antonio banked in a three-pointer to open, and Baylor didn’t look back from there. Baylor pushed their lead to 81-71 with only 1:15 to go.
An and-one dunk by Prince off the steal sealed the deal. Prince finished with eight points in the second overtime and Baylor pulled off the victory 87-73.
“It’s nice to have Kenny healthy,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “A coach will always say you’re only as good as your players. Against their pressure, you really needed someone to create, and Kenny did that for us.”
Chery finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for the sixth triple-double in Baylor basketball history.
“I can’t say nothing other than to thank my teammates and thank God,” Chery said. “My teammates have been pushing me really hard in practice, and that’s kept me in shape through my injury.”
Junior forward Cory Jefferson added 21 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in the first overtime. Sophomore center Isaiah Austin quietly added 18 points, seven rebounds and a career-high nine blocks. Baylor outrebounded the Wildcats 54-40.
Williams finished with 20 points and eight rebounds for Kansas State. Foster added 18 points and 10 assists in 43 minutes.
“This conference is so unpredictable,” Foster said after the loss. “You have to come out to play each and every night because everyone is so good.”
Baylor will turn around and play at 8 p.m. on ESPN’s Big Monday against Oklahoma State.