Story by Ben Everett | Sports Writer, Video by Branson Hardcastle | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor men’s basketball needed a big game from its seniors in order to pick up its first win over Kansas in five years, and that’s exactly what it got.
The Bears (15-10, 5-7) likely kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive with an 80-64 win over the No. 10-ranked Jayhawks (19-6, 8-4) behind strong performances from seniors Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr., Manu Lecomte and Nuni Omot.
Lual-Acuil, Jr. finished with a team-high 19 points while Lecomte and Omot at 18 and 17 points, respectively.
“It was great seeing the seniors step up and have big games,” Drew said. “Especially down the stretch these are the game they’re going to remember most in their career.”
Baylor stifled the Kansas offense early with back-to-back steals leading to transition buckets by Lecomte and junior guard Jake Lindsey as Baylor held a 6-5 lead at the 15:09 mark of the first half.
The Jayhawks got three straight uncontested looks from 3-point range and could not connect on any of them, but Baylor junior guard King McClure drained one from the top of the key as the Bears took a 15-11 lead with 9:57 left in the first half.
Kansas briefly took the lead on a jumper from senior guard Devonte’ Graham, but Lual-Acuil, Jr. knocked down a three to give the Bears a 20-18 lead with six minutes remaining in the half.
A fadeaway jumper and three-pointer from Omot stretched the Baylor lead to 26-20 at the two minute mark, prompting Kansas to call a timeout.
Lual-Acuil, Jr. scored back-to-back buckets in the post, and freshman forward Mark Vital blocked a three by Kansas sophomore guard Malik Newman at the end of the first half to secure a 30-20 lead for the Bears.
Kansas sophomore center Udoka Azubuike picked up two fouls early in the second half, bringing his total to four and forcing the Jayhawks to go smaller. The Bears took advantage, with Lual-Acuil, Jr. and Vital attacking the rim each possession as Baylor took a 39-29 lead at the 15:38 mark of the second half.
Lindsey found the open lane to the basket for layups on back-to-back possessions and Omot drove the lane for a dunk as Baylor continued to go right at the Jayhawks, holding a 49-42 lead with 11:43 remaining.
A 6-0 run by Kansas put them back in the game as Azubuike got two open dunks to make it a 51-49 Baylor lead with 9:19 left in the game.
Kansas junior guard LaGerald Vick accidentally tipped in a shot on an attempted rebound for Baylor, but responded with a floater on the other end as the Bears clung to a 60-56 lead at the 6:50 mark of the second half.
Lecomte drained his first two threes of the game in deep catch-and-shoot fashion to extend the lead to 66-56 with under five minutes to play.
Kansas head coach Bill Self said Lecomte’s shots weren’t the result of a defensive breakdown, they were just clutch.
“Those were hard shots at the end of the shot clock against a zone,” Self said. “This were clutch plays.”
Baylor held Kansas to just eight points in the last 7:14 of the game to hold on for the 80-64 win.
The Bears look to make it four straight wins as they face Texas at 8 p.m. Monday in Austin.