By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer, Video by Braden Murray | Broadcast Reporter
No. 10 Baylor men’s basketball avenged their blowout loss to No. 5 University of Kansas with an 80-70 victory Saturday night in the Ferrell Center in front of a program attendance record 10,628 people.
“The fans had a big impact on today’s game,” head coach Scott Drew said. “We started out slow but they kept us energized and motivated throughout. To set a record of 10,628 on College Gameday is a great tribute to them. I’m glad we were able to get a win for them and their efforts.”
Despite going down double-digits early on, Baylor (24-5, 12-4 Big 12) led the entire final 11 minutes as they closed out No. 5 Kansas (23-5, 12-3 Big 12). The Bears are now 10-1 against top 10 ranked teams over the last two seasons, and improve to 14-2 at home this season.
Senior forward Flo Thamba set a new career-high in points with 18, he also piled in 9 rebounds. Closely behind Thamba was freshman Jeremy Sochan with 17 points, matching his career-best, while also bringing down five boards.
“[Jeremy] knows I’d lock him up,” Thamba jokingly said. “I’m just glad he’s out there getting buckets and giving us advantages. That’s the thing I really like about our team, we have different pieces that can come in … I just love our team and the different matchups we can create.”
Baylor’s starting backcourt, senior guard James Akinjo and junior guard Adam Flagler, also scored in double figures finishing with 12 points and 13 points respectively. Akinjo was able to rack up a team-high six assists, and Flagler tracked down six rebounds of his own. Senior forward Matthew Mayer crashed the glass hard as he finished with a career-high 12 boards and missed his first career double-double by one point, finishing with nine. Baylor shot 48.3% from the field and 21.4% from deep.
To start the game, Kansas came out firing, opening up with a 12-2 lead. The Jayhawks were able to maintain control throughout most of the first half, having an answer for seemingly every Baylor attempt to get back into the swing of things. However, Akinjo found his way to the foul line, kicking off a big Baylor run. The crowd was revived as the Bears ended the half on a 16-4 run to go into halftime down just one, 32-31.
At the break, Thamba had 12 points and four rebounds. Followed by Flagler with six points and four boards. Baylor shot 38.7% in the first, and went 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. Coach Drew said their early rough start was because of the high emotions running.
“When you’re emotional or excited sometimes you speed things up, you rush,” Drew said. “Then we settled down and Flo did a great job early. When Jeremy came in at the five, that really got us going as well.”
The Bears came out of the break strong, taking just one minute into the half to take their first lead of the game at 35-32. The Jayhawks responded with a 7-0 run to recapture the lead, which kicked off a back-and-forth where neither team could get consecutive stops. With 11 minutes left to play, Thamba’s and-one finish ignited the crowd as Baylor retook the lead at 54-51.
Freshman forward Kendall Brown followed up by scoring five-straight on his own to halt Kansas’ attempts at gaining momentum. The Bears were able to hold on to momentum the remainder of the game, but with just over one minute to go, Akinjo drove hard to the rim and finished through contact for an and-one, which proved to be the dagger. Baylor held Kansas at bay as they finished with a 10-point, 80-70, victory.
Up next, the Bears have a quick turnaround, as they head to Austin to face off with the No. 20 University of Texas (21-8, 10-6 Big 12) at 8 p.m. on Monday in the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Special Events Center.
“In the Big 12 you have huge wins and tough losses,” Drew said. “The key in the Big 12 is to have a short-term mentality … You can’t get too high after this. First thing is guys got to rehab. They got to get a good night’s sleep because you have a big game on Monday.”