Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Big 12 Tournament semifinals in Kansas City. You can follow Brian on Twitter at @bri_goodman.
Baylor 82, Kansas 71
The Baylor Bears have deservedly had their share of doubters all season. After starting the campaign 17-0, Scott Drew‘s team was swept by the top two teams in the Big 12 and suffered losses to the other two squads in the conference that are locks for the NCAA Tournament. While Baylor played one of its most complete games of the season in a drubbing of Kansas State on Thursday in Kansas City, the knock remained that the talented Bears didn’t have the defensive toughness, focus and heart to match up with its seemingly endless supply of tools and athleticism the other teams offered. One game doesn’t erase an entire reputation, but Baylor put a dent in that line of thinking by withstanding a furious Kansas run in front of a de facto road crowd to hold on for the win in the first Big 12 semifinal Friday night. “This was a night we grew up,” Drew later said.
The outcome derailed what hoopheads have been hoping for in a rubber match between Kansas and Missouri, but the Bears are hardly concerned with such matters. With Thomas Robinson battling foul trouble, Baylor went on a 13-4 run to take a 13-point lead early in the second half. Kansas was taxed physically, but the Jayhawks weren’t going to go down without making a run of their own, and that’s exactly what they did. Kansas answered with a 19-4 spurt, keyed by great defense from Jeff Withey and a collective effort on offense, and briefly surged ahead. “Tonight, you knew they were going to make a run,” Drew said after the game. The Bears, prone to disappointment despite a slew of young talent, were tasked with answering. Perry Jones III led the response, scoring six of his game-high 18 points to help Baylor pull ahead for good, but it was one of the overlooked Bears, Brady Heslip, who delivered with the knockout punches. A pair of threes by the sophomore guard put BU ahead for good and Drew’s biggest smile of the night came during the postseason press conference as he spoke about Heslip’s background. “He has an unbelievable work ethic (with) a good bloodline.”