By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Igor Stepczynski | Broadcast Reporter
No. 1 Baylor men’s basketball fell for the first time since early November as No. 3 Kansas left Waco with a 64-61 win. Jayhawk center Ukoka Azuibuke finished with a dominant 23 points and 19 rebounds against the Bear defense.
Baylor started the game with a three by redshirt junior guard MaCio Teague and a redshirt senior forward Freddie Gillespie jumper to gain a 5-0 lead, but that was the last lead the Bears held all day.
Kansas ran off the next nine points and didn’t let up, leading by as many as nine points in the first half. The Bears fought back with six straight to finish off the first half, but the Jayhawks got hot over the break to jump out to an 11- point lead by the 11:53 mark.
The team from Lawrence, Kan., held the lead close to 10 for the next five minutes, but Baylor started chipping away over the last seven minutes of play. After a mini-run by the Bears, the Jayhawks pushed the lead back to seven with under two minutes to play, but Baylor was ready to make a final stand. Head coach Scott Drew said after the game that comeback represents how hard his team works every week.
“I think that shows you the heart of our team,” Drew said. “We have great upperclassman leadership and great togetherness, and normally when you’re not playing well you can hang your head. But why we’ve been successful is our guys pick each other up and … one mistake doesn’t lead to two because they care about their teammates.”
Baylor went on an 8-2 run to close the difference to one point with 18 seconds left on the clock, but the Jayhawks successfully inbounded the ball and were able to spend 10 seconds before Gillespie fouled. Isaiah Moss made both free throws, and the Bears were left down three with eight seconds left.
Redshirt sophomore guard Davion Mitchell ran the ball down the court before passing it off to sophomore guard Jared Butler. Butler scampered around the top of the arc before launching a three over Devon Dotson’s head, but it clanked off the rim as time expired to send the Jayhawks home with the victory. Kansas head coach Bill Self said this year’s Baylor team has been a tough out.
“I think Baylor is the best team that we have played against since I’ve been in the league the last 17 years,” Self said. “I think you can look at Oklahoma State in ‘04 and you can look at Tech in ‘19, but I think at the same stage Baylor has played better than both of those teams at the same stage.”
Butler led the Bears in scoring with 19 points on 7-18 shooting with season-highs in both rebounds (six) and assists (six). Gillespie and sophomore guard Matthew Mayer were the only other Bears to finish in double digits with 10 points apiece.
Baylor will get to stay home for their next game as Kansas State travels for a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday at the Ferrell Center. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ through the ESPN app.