Waco, TX – No. 10-ranked Baylor Bears hosted No. 5-ranked Kansas Jayhawks in front of a record crowd of 10,628 in a Big 12 contest that has conference title implications. Baylor riding a two-game winning streak, returned home after a narrow overtime win in Stillwater. The Bears are looking to revenge a humiliating loss at Kansas and close the gap to keep Big 12 title chances in reach. Kansas came into the contest holding a two-game lead over Baylor in the Big 12 and riding a four-game winning streak.
Baylor is still without sophomore LJ Cryer out with a foot injury. Baylor came out flat and gave the allusion that what happened in Kansas would repeat itself in Waco as Kansas would storm out to a double-digit lead five minutes into the game. But senior forward Flo Thamba and freshman Jeremy Sochan had other thoughts on the matter in this ultra-physical contest. The Bears would ride the senior freshman dual with spectacular defense and offense. Baylor would bear up to the Jayhawks in the second half, where the two teams went toe to toe like Rocky and Apollo Creed before Baylor would finish off Kansas 80-70.
This contest would start with an attitude of a bully big brother for Kansas. The Jayhawks got off to a 16-4 lead behind junior guard Christian Braun’s first-half 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting knocking down two of his four 3 point attempts. Senior guard Ochai Agbaj would add nine first-half points on 4-for-9 shooting resulting in the Jayhawks early control. The Bears would get a welcome surprise from Thamba, punishing the Jayhawks in the pick roll as a roller, and knocking down the occasional 15-footers. Thamba’s first half 12 points and a late 10-0 run by the Bears at the 5:22 mark would get the score within three points, 28-25. Baylor would ultimately cut the lead to one (32-31) at the end of the half.
The second half would start with a bang for Baylor as freshman sensation Kendall Brown would display the athleticism that NBA executives love with a transition dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and 33-32 Baylor lead. Kansas’s Agbaji would respond and begin to heat up, showing why he is considered a lottery pick, scoring seven points within a minute off a thunderous dunk, a soft three-pointer, and getting to the line to make two free throws and a Kansas 39-35 lead. Baylor would respond with its own 6-point flurry to take the lead back 54-51. Brown would become more aggressive offensively, getting out in transition finishing with a soft touch, and hitting the only 3-point shot he took to extend the Bears lead to 59-55. Brown finished the game with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting.
Agbaji would do all he could to halt the Bears from building steam. He would score 18 of his game-high 27 points in the second half through aggressive play and smooth shooting. He attacked the Bears at all levels with thunderous dunks, catching and shooting threes, and mid-range floaters. Braun would add another seven points in the second half hitting two FG and getting to the free-throw line to finish the game with a double-double of 17 points and ten rebounds on 6-for13 shooting.
But Baylor’s Thumba and Sochan would will the Bears to the win. Sochan would go 4-for5 from the field with a three-point make and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line to finish with 17 points on some impressive interior scoring. Thumba continued to be the consistent force Baylor would need to finish off the Jayhawks. He would finish with a team and career-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
Baylor would also get an energetic contribution from senior Matthew Mayer, who would be one point shy of a double-double, finishing with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Senior James Akinjo would get in attack mode in the second half, scoring 12 points, getting to the free-throw line 9 times and making eight and adding six assists displaying his court vision. Junior Adam Flagler would struggle shooting going 0-5 from beyond the arc but found a way to put the ball in the hole as only he can and finish with 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Baylor’s will and positive attitude would see them to the 10-point win.
Baylor travels to Austin to face the No. 20-Texas on Monday, February 28th, while Kansas travels to Fort-Worth to take on TCU on Tuesday, March 1st.