On just two days rest and fresh off a hard-fought road win over Texas Tech, No. 2 Baylor had every excuse to roll out a clunker against a desperate No. 9 Kansas team on Monday night. Instead, the Bears won 77-69 in a game they led wire to wire, issuing a statement that the Big 12, officially and indefinitely, will run through Waco, Texas, this season.
Baylor led by as many as 16 points and held control of the game throughout. Kansas made a few nice runs in the second half to cut the lead to as close as five, but the Bears’ offense — and specifically, Jared Butler — had an answer at every turn. Butler had 30 points and eight assists, accounting for seven of the team’s nine 3-pointers. Baylor as a team went 28 of 52 from the field, enjoying success around the rim as much as it did beyond the arc.
Butler’s supporting cast showed in a big way, too, with MaCio Teague adding 13 points, Davion Mitchell recording 10 of his own, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua coming off the bench to add eight points and a pair of blocks. Mark Vital scored just 4 points but led the way in rebounds, with 10.
All of his points came on alley-oops, and he had a chasedown block in the first half that gave Baylor a big momentum swing in its favor.
Credit to Kansas: It didn’t quit when, by all accounts, it looked as if it had every right to do exactly that. Baylor came at KU in waves and KU kept throwing punches right back. But after getting within five points with 3:19 to play, it never got closer. The only drama thereafter came in garbage time when Chris Teahan made an off-the-glass 3-pointer as time expired, killing a ton of bettors in crushing fashion who backed the Bears at -8.5 or -9.
Baylor with the win improves to a perfect 13-0 on the season and to 6-0 in Big 12 play, one game up on Texas and 2.5 games up on the Jayhawks. It gets the rest of the week off before heading to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State this Saturday.
Here are three key takeaways from the game.
Jared Butler, the Kansas killer
First-Team All-American, potential first-round NBA draft pick, college superstar. Take your pick on what to call Butler: I’ll call him the Kansas killer. Because his 30-point eruption, while stupendous, isn’t at all surprising. Against KU in March, 2019, Butler scored 31 points; against KU in January, 2020, Butler scored 22 points and won inside Allen Fieldhouse; and Monday he scored 30 points to go along with assists in a massive win. He was consistently great all night, and seemingly came up big in each moment when Baylor needed him.
Christian Braun kept KU in it
He took only seven shots on the night, but sophomore guard Christian Braun made five of them — all 3-pointers — in a 17-point outing that included a pair of free throws. 14 of them came in the first half, and he singlehandedly prevented Baylor from blowing the thing open before halftime. (He only took two shots in the second half — riddle me that one.) Braun had plenty of support — Ochai Agbaji came on strong in the second half in particular — but he can be credited for keeping KU in the mix when it seemed very likely KU was deserving of being completely out of the mix.
Bears makes a statement
Baylor has not only struggled with Kansas historically — it had an all-time record vs. KU of 6-33 entering the night — but it has also struggled recently. KU had won 14 of the last 16 in the series. It also had dominated regardless of venue, with an all-time record vs. Baylor in Waco of 14-3. It’s just one win that won’t do a dent to those numbers in the grand scheme, of course. But it’s a momentous win given its struggles vs. Kansas that can’t be overlooked. This type of win can create some real momentum — something Baylor already doesn’t lack for. That should scare the rest of the Big 12.