No. 17 Baylor men’s basketball takes down No. 9 KU 75-69

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

No. 17 Baylor men’s basketball got its biggest win of the season over No. 9 University of Kansas — the defending national champions — 75-69 for its fifth-consecutive win Monday night in the Ferrell Center.

The Bears improve to 15-5 (5-3 Big 12) and are now 12-1 against top 10 opponents over the last three seasons. With 34 NBA scouts in attendance, the defending Big 12 champs put on a show in front of its home crowd for its third straight Ferrell Center win over the Jayhawks (16-4, 5-3 Big 12).

“When you beat them, you have to beat them. They’re not going to beat themselves,” head coach Scott Drew said. “I’m really proud of our guys. We shot 28% [in the] second half and found a way to win. Really proud of how we competed on the glass and how we took care of the basketball.”

Junior guard LJ Cryer led the way for the Bears offensively with 22 points including 5 of 11 from deep. Fifth-year senior guard Adam Flagler followed with 17 points of his own. Junior forward Jalen Bridges and redshirt freshman guard Langston Love pitched in 11 points apiece, and Bridges grabbed nine boards as well.

Despite huge scoring performances from KU’s freshman guard Gradey Dick (24 points) and redshirt junior Jalen Wilson (23 points), the Bears forced 15 turnovers and had a +11 advantage on the offensive glass to help them take down the 2022 national champs.

“In the Big 12, teams are too good, coaches are too good, players are too good. It’s hard to have on-nights every night and every team has different schemes to shut down different people,” Drew said. “So, when everyone has some elite defenders and need other people to step up, I thought LJ gave us some great looks first half. Credit his teammates getting him looks and finding him open. But then he made some tough shots and tough plays too.”

Baylor got on the board quickly after a steal that led to an easy layup from Cryer which set off the Ferrell Center crowd. As play continued, the Bears’ defense held Kansas into a four-minute scoring drought, which Baylor turned into a 9-0 run to go up 20-7.

Late in the first half, the game became a three-point contest between Cryer and the entire Kansas team. Cryer hit three consecutive three-pointers to keep the Jayhawks at an arms length at 38-26.

At the half, the Bears led the Jayhawks 41-34. Cryer secured 19 points in the first 20 minutes on seven of 10 shooting, including a five of seven mark from beyond the arc. Flagler followed with 10 points.

The team had just 10 points in the paint but shot at a high clip with 44.1% from the field and 43.8% from three.

The Bears came out of the half a bit stiff, as they only made 1 of 8 shots to open the second half. Kansas took full advantage and went on an 8-0 run to take its first lead of the contest at 46-45. Baylor responded immediately with a 12-3 run to retake the lead and the Ferrell Center exploded and forced a KU timeout at 57-49.

Over halfway through the second, Baylor held onto a 67-55 advantage in what was a very physical and defensive game. Despite multiple offensive rebounds, Kansas could not get the lid off the basket as another missed three resulted in a shot clock violation and a relentless ‘Airball!’ chant from Baylor Bear Pit.

Even though he was shut out in the first, Love came alive in the final 20 minutes, hitting big shot after big shot when Baylor needed it most.

With around two minutes left in play, Kansas got things going by hitting three-consecutive field goals to cut its deficit to just five points at 70-65. Baylor’s energy on the defensive end and some key free throw shooting proved too much as it held off the Jayhawks on the way to a 75-69 win.

Up next, Baylor takes on the University of Arkansas at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Ferrell Center for the Big 12/SEC Challenge.