LAWRENCE — After decades of trying, the Baylor basketball program finally made history Saturday.
And if the No. 4-ranked Bears continue to play to this level, more first-time accolades could be in the works.
Baylor throttled No. 3-ranked Kansas 67-55, picking up its first-ever victory inside Allen Fieldhouse after 16 unsuccessful attempts and its first in Lawrence in 18 all-time tries. The outcome extended a winning streak to 12 for the Bears, who have never won a Big 12 regular-season or tournament championship but through just three league games now hold road victories at KU and against No. 22 Texas Tech in Lubbock.
The outcome also represented the fifth top-25 victory of the season for Baylor.
“When you’ve been in the Big 12 long enough, every game, you can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. They’re all worth the same,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “At the same time, I know to our fans since we’d never won up here, it’s a big deal. I know to our players, (so was) getting that monkey off their backs so they’re not asked about it.”
The victory was also a first for Drew, who improved to 1-12 at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I always knew Baylor was going to win up here," Drew said, "and I was just hoping I’d be able to be a part of it."
Jared Butler finished with a game-high 22 points for the Bears, who limited the Jayhawks (12-3, 1-2 Big 12) to 39.2% shooting and 14 turnovers. Baylor, which finished with a 21-2 edge in points off turnovers, also got 16 points from MaCio Teague, 13 from Freddie Gillespie and 10 from Davion Mitchell.
KU, which trimmed a 13-point second-half deficit to five with 11:35 remaining before going cold down the stretch, got 15 points from Isaiah Moss and 11 from Marcus Garrett. The defeat snapped a 26-game home winning streak for the Jayhawks, who last season lost a 14-year streak of Big 12 regular-season conference championships.
“I thought our guys tried. I hate to say this, but this is sports,” KU coach Bill Self said. “When you play a team that can win a national championship, regardless of where you play ’em, if they’re on and you’re not, they’re going to beat you, and that’s what happened today.”
The Bears (13-1, 3-0) led by 13 at the half after closing out on a staggering 22-4 run.
Baylor, which had earlier endured a five-plus-minute scoring drought, hit its final seven field goal attempts of the period to secure the 37-24 advantage. The Bears started the game 1 of 6 from 3-point range but hit their final three before the break, including a desperation heave from Teague at the end of a shot clock that kick-started a 12-2 stretch to close out the first half. Teague had eight points in that rally and led all scorers with 13 at intermission.
KU, meanwhile, got 10 first-half points from reserve Moss, but it was little consolation — the Jayhawks’ three bigs, including preseason Big 12 player of the year Udoka Azubuike, were held scoreless in the period on a combined 0-for-3 shooting, with a handful of the home team’s 10 turnovers in the frame coming on botched entry passes into the paint.
The Jayhawks surrendered 10 points in the final 2:23 of the opening frame.
“I’m not saying they wouldn’t have won the game anyway because they controlled the game totally after about the first 10 minutes of the first half, but the last two minutes or whatever of the first half were a debacle for us,” Self said. "... Yeah, that made the climb obviously a lot harder. And we put a little bit of game pressure on them the second half, but not much. Certainly I thought the end of the first half was very well done by them and very poor by us.”
KU temporarily lost starting point guard Devon Dotson (hip pointer, day-to-day) just 25 seconds into the second half, but the Jayhawk defense answered the call, forcing the Bears into a 1-for-10 shooting start to the period. Self’s squad authored a 10-2 run during that stretch to cut the deficit to just five, 39-34, with 13:01 remaining. Gillespie had an answer, though — or, rather, three of them. His dunk on a Butler lob ended the Jayhawks’ run, the first of a six-point burst for the 6-foot-9 redshirt senior forward across the next four minutes that re-established a double-figure lead, 48-38, with 8:54 remaining.
Butler’s corner trey out of a timeout made the KU deficit 51-38 with 7:30 remaining, and after a Garrett layup, it was Butler with the response. His layup, coming on a possession which saw the Bears secure three offensive rebounds, was perhaps as much of a back-breaker as the sophomore guard’s 3 moments earlier.
He wasn’t done. KU came away with points on its next two possessions, but Butler again had answers, first on a jumper and next with another trey that pushed the Bears’ advantage to 58-44 with just 5:05 remaining. Mark Vital's ensuing layup continued the fun for the visitors, essentially strapping Baylor to the driver’s seat — both in the game and in the race for the Big 12.
KU won the rebounding battle 34-31 and recorded 10 blocked shots, but those were the only highlights on a crummy day for the Jayhawk bigs. Azubuike, the nation's leader in field goal percentage, finished with just six points on 3-for-6 shooting, while fellow starting frontcourt player David McCormack was held scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting.
KU continues its season with an 8 p.m. Tuesday tilt against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., while Baylor will look to extend its winning streak when it plays host to Iowa State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Despite the historic nature of Saturday’s outcome, Self doesn’t expect he’ll “make a big deal out of that” to his younger players, who don't need the significance explained to them.
“I think when you say it like that, I may be wrong, it’s almost like saying the players here don’t care as much as players in the past because we got our ass handed to us today,” Self said. “They were just better than us.”