Baylor finally gets signature league victory

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There wasn’t much wrong with the resume of Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears going into the Big 12 tournament. At 24-6 record, 12-6 in league play, the Bears were well on their way to a protected seed in next week’s NCAA tournament.

The one thing missing was a win over either Kansas or Missouri. But thanks in part to the shooting of Brady Heslip, No. 12 Baylor finally got their win, 81-72, over the No. 3 Jayhawks.

Also of consequence is the fact that Kansas possibly had a one-seed on the line this weekend, but those chances may have been shot down by a player who left Boston College in search of playing time.

Heslip knocked down three of his four three-pointers in the final 9:06, and all three were of the utmost importance. The first came with 9:06 remaining and gave the Bears a 59-58 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

The other two came within 50 seconds of each other, extending Baylor’s lead to 73-66 with 1:17 left in the game. Even bigger than Heslip’s shots were the fact that Baylor, a team questioned often this season in regards to their toughness, refused to fold.

“Tonight you knew they were going to make a run,” noted Drew following the game. “When they took the lead, I was really pleased with the poise our guys had and the togetherness, character. We didn’t have to call timeouts, and those guys just played through it and really did a great job in reestablishing and getting us the lead back.

“And for three first‑year‑college guys and one second‑year, I think they grew up a little bit tonight.”

In the two regular-season meetings Kansas shot 57% and 51% as they won both contests comfortably. Tonight the Jayhawks shot 43%, which included a 2-for-13 night from beyond the arc.

Tyshawn Taylor led Kansas with 20 points and defending the senior was a bit of an issue in both regular-season meetings. But unlike those two games other Jayhawks weren’t allowed to go off tonight, and in the end that proved to be the difference. Thomas Robinson shot 6-for-14 from the field, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds on the night, and Elijah Johnson made just six of his sixteen shots from the field.

Baylor put together one of the most balanced performances of the season as six players finished in double figures. One of those six was reserve point guard A.J. Walton, who has had a good weekend in Kansas City thus far.

Walton, who was a starter for much of the season, provided 12 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes of action. He’s reached double figures in three of Baylor’s last four games, with two coming in the conference tournament. If Walton, who averages 3.5 points per game, can provide some help offensively the remainder of the season, the Bears will be a tougher team to beat.

Unsung heroes aside, Baylor displaying the mental toughness to not break down as the Jayhawks made their run in the second half was the biggest thing to take out their victory. One game does not a season make, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

The Bears will face No. 5 Missouri, an 81-67 winner over Texas, in the Big 12 tournament final.