By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
After 14 fruitless trips to Allen Fieldhouse, the Baylor Bears seemed to finally have one in their clutches with a six-point lead on 10th-ranked Kansas in the last 2 ½ minutes.
But like the big one that got away, the Bears let the Jayhawks off the hook, getting outscored 9-0 down the stretch and missing their last five shots in a 70-67 loss before a sellout crowd of 16,300.
"I thought we had decent looks," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team fell to 12-7 overall and 2-5 in the Big 12. "You don't get good looks against Kansas, but we had decent looks. We take the six-point lead. And if I did the math right, they get seven free throw attempts and we get zero. We've got to get to the line.
"At the end of the game, free throws make a big difference. Credit to them, they did a great job getting to the line and we didn't."
After Kansas (16-3, 6-1) watched its 13-point second-half lead evaporate, sophomore guard Malik Newman scored 12 straight for the Jayhawks and gave them the lead back, 68-67, on a layup off a long rebound after 7-footer Udoka Azubuike contested a drive in the lane by Baylor guard King McClure.
"We were lucky," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "to have one guy out there putting the defense on its heels."
The Bears overcame an early 16-3 deficit to pull within two on a dunk by Jo Lual-Acuil and then took their first lead of the game, 56-54, on five straight free throws by Nuni Omot. King McClure buried a go-ahead 3-pointer, then Jake Lindsey fed Lual-Acuil for a layup that made it a five-point game with 4 ½ minutes to play.
"We got stops, that was the difference," said senior point guard Manu Lecomte, who had 10 points and three assists but was just 1-of-8 from 3-point range. "And we got rebounds and got out in transition. That's why we got up by six. But then, we stopped making shots and they got out in transition. They made plays and got to the free throw line."
Newman started his closing stretch with a 3-pointer that pulled the Jayhawks back within two, 61-59, but buckets by Lecomte and Omot gave Baylor its biggest lead of the night, 65-59, at the 3:17 mark.
Lecomte drained a jumper from the lane after a pair of Newman free throws, and Baylor had a chance to extend its lead after a missed 3-pointer by Svi Mykhailiuk. But, Lecomte was short on a jumper that could have all but sealed this one.
"They did a good job on me, not giving me any open shots," Lecomte said. "But in the second half, I was more aggressive and applied more pressure on the offensive end. I had wide-open looks and my teammates did a good job finding me."
Newman converted a three-point play with a drive and follow free throw off a foul by Lual-Acuil, then hit back-to-back layups that put Kansas back on top going into the last minute.
"The game was on the line," said Newman, who scored a game-high 24 points. "Coach (Self) always says, `Players make plays,' so I was just trying to be aggressive then and come out with the win."
Even after Newman's go-ahead bucket, Baylor had two more chances in the closing seconds, but Lecomte missed a 3-pointer and then couldn't finish on a drive off the glass over Azubuike.
"That was the play," Lecomte said. "We were trying to get an (isolation) with me going to the right, trying to finish or find someone. It was almost in, so I thought it was a good look."
After a pair of free throws by Devonte' Graham, who had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Bears had an inbounds play on Kansas' end with 2.9 seconds left. But, they didn't even get a shot off when Graham came up with a loose ball off Jake Lindsey's inbounds pass to freshman Tristan Clark.
"We needed a 3, so we were just throwing it in and we were going to kick it out from there," Drew said. "But, obviously, you've got to come down with it to make a pass. And we didn't."
Omot and Lual-Acuil led the Bears with 14 points apiece, while redshirt freshman forward Mark Vital had nine points, nine boards, one block and a steal. Azubuike had 14 points and seven rebounds for Kansas, but was just 4-of-11 from the free throw line and missed two with 16 seconds to go.
In a quick turnaround, Baylor will host Kansas State (14-5, 4-3) at 8 p.m. Monday. The Wildcats won a pair of games this week against ranked teams, routing fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 87-69, then edging 24th-ranked TCU, 73-68.