No. 9 Baylor blows 17-point lead, succumbs to avalanche of second-half momentum in 87-71 loss at No. 5 Kansas

Feb 18, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler (10) looks to get around Kansas Jayhawks guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Baylor blows 17-point lead, succumbs to avalanche of second-half momentum in 87-71 loss at No. 5 Kansas

No. 5 Kansas 87, No. 9 Baylor 71 

Despite 20 points apiece from guards Adam Flagler and Keyonte George, No. 9 Baylor (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) coughed up a 17-point first-half lead en route to an 87-71 loss at No. 9 Kansas (22-5, 10-4 Big 12). Jalen Wilson led the way for the Jayhawks, pouring in 21 points and 13 rebounds despite being held scoreless into the final minutes of the first half. 

Kansas improved to 13-1 at home this season with the win, and exacted revenge after Baylor’s 75-69 win in Waco on Jan. 23. Baylor led 40-23 with 3:23 left in the first half before a meltdown that saw Kansas sprint to a double-digit lead of its own in the second half. 

It doesn’t get much bigger in college hoops than Saturday’s Baylor-Kansas tilt, a top-10 battle between the sport’s last two national champions. With ESPN College Gameday in town and another sellout crowd on hand at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Saturday’s game felt every bit like a Final Four-caliber matchup in terms of its setting. For the game’s first 16 minutes, Baylor more than looked the part. 

Despite starting Big 12 play 0-3, Baylor entered Saturday afternoon’s big-ticket matchup 9-4 in conference, tied for the league lead with Kansas and Texas after winning 10 of 11 games overall. But after the Longhorns’ overtime win over Oklahoma earlier Saturday, Kansas’ win over the Bears tie the Jayhawks with Texas atop the league entering next week. Baylor, meanwhile, now trails the league’s top spot by a game with four to go. 

Baylor’s offense struggled in the opening minutes, turning the basketball over three times before their second made basket. But when the Bears settled down, guard Adam Flagler grabbed control. Flagler scored the team’s first seven points, making his first three consecutive shots en route to a 9-7 Baylor deficit at the first media timeout. 

Flagler and L.J. Cryer combined to score Baylor’s first 20 points, combining to make eight of their first ten shots over the game’s opening eight minutes. At the first half under-12 timeout, Baylor’s lead was 20-14 behind 11 from Cryer and 9 from Flagler. 

After a stretch of more than two minutes that followed without Baylor scoring, Keyonte George became the first Bear other than Cryer or Flagler to score with a deep, contested 3-pointer that moved Baylor ahead 23-17 just after the midway point of the first half. George would drill another deep 3-pointer two minutes later, extending Baylor’s game-high lead to 28-21 at the under-8 media timeout. 

Star forward Jalen Wilson struggled in the early going for Kansas, missing his first six shots as Baylor extended its lead to 12 and forced a Kansas timeout with 5:08 to go in the half. The Jayhawks started 1-for-11 from behind the 3-point arc overall, while Baylor started 8-for-11 after Keyonte George’s third and fourth triples, the last of which came with a foul and a free throw to follow. As a result, Baylor’s lead ballooned as high as 40-23 with three and a half minutes to go before the break. 

Wilson eventually did get going for the Jayhawks before halftime, pouring in nine points in the final five minutes. Still, Baylor led 45-32 at the break behind 51.2% shooting overall and 9-of-14 (64.3%) on 3-pointers. George, Cryer, and Flagler all scored in double figures in the opening half and combined for 42 of Baylor’s 45 points. The Bears held a rebounding advantage as well, 21-13. 

Kansas opened the second half on a 6-0 run, quickly trimming its deficit to just 45-38 and forcing Baylor head coach Scott Drew to call a timeout just 82 seconds after halftime. After the timeout concluded, the Jayhawks’ furious run continued with Gradey Dick’s tip-in and two free throws by Kevin McCullar to make it 45-42. All told, Kansas scored 13 consecutive points spanning the end of the first half and the opening minutes of the second. 

Before long, Baylor’s 17-point lead completely disintegrated. Scott Drew was forced to use another timeout with 14:28 to go after Gradey Dick’s ear-splitting 3-pointer put Kansas ahead 50-49. As Kansas extended its lead to five at the under-12 media timeout, it felt as if Baylor was overcome by an avalanche of Allen Fieldhouse momentum. 

Kansas’ lead reached double digits for the first time before the 10-minute mark as the Jayhawks polished off another 11-0 run for a 66-54 advantage. Jalen Wilson, who struggled through the game’s first 15 minutes, reached 18 points and 11 rebounds with still more than nine minutes to go. 

The Jayhawks never relented the rest of the way. Kansas’ lead ballooned to as many as 17 after Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s 3-pointer and K.J. Adams’ layup made it 80-63 with four minutes to go. Kansas finished the second half having outscored Baylor 55-26 to polish off a 16-point win. 

Baylor will look to regroup as their road trip in the Sunflower State continues Tuesday night at No. 12 Kansas State.

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