Desperation brought out the best in Baylor in a game it absolutely had to win to stay in the NCAA tournament conversation.
When the Bears needed a 3-pointer to force overtime, Brady Heslip answered with a clutch shot at the buzzer.
When they needed point guard Kenny Chery to take over, he responded with the sixth triple-double in school history.
When they needed Taurean Prince to give them inspiration off the bench in the second overtime, he came up with eight big points.
The Bears had to have all those elements and more to pull off an 87-73 double-overtime win over Kansas State before 7,556 fans who were treated to a riveting performance Saturday night at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor (16-9, 4-8) still has a long road to get into the NCAA tournament picture, but the wild win over the Wildcats (17-8, 7-5) kept them alive. The Bears hope to make it three straight wins in a quick turnaround against Oklahoma State on Monday night at the Ferrell Center.
“I really thought our guys persevered,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Everybody who played contributed and helped the team in some areas. Brady made his one 3 for the big one. In the last overtime, we got a double-digit lead, and that was the best way to do it.”
Trailing by 10 points with 8:50 remaining in regulation, the Bears looked like they were headed for their fifth straight Big 12 home loss. But they came through with an emotional rally that was keyed by Chery, who finished with 20 points and a career-high 10 rebounds and 12 assists in 44 minutes after being plagued by a turf toe injury in recent games.
With the Wildcats holding on to a 57-54 lead with 23.8 seconds remaining in regulation, Chery missed on a drive to the basket, Gary Franklin couldn’t hit a 3-point shot and Cory Jefferson misfired a short shot as the clock ticked down.
Isaiah Austin rebounded Jefferson’s miss and slipped the ball behind the arc to Heslip, who drained a trey as time expired to tie the game at 57. It was the only 3-pointer Heslip hit in eight attempts, but it was the biggest shot of the game.
Austin had a superb night with 18 points, seven rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots, but his only thought was to get the ball to Heslip for the last shot in regulation.
“All I remember is I grabbed the rebound and tried not to travel,” Austin said. “I probably did. But I saw Brady sitting out there wide open. He’s a great shooter, and he can go 0-for-6 or 0-for-9, and we still want him to shoot.”
The first overtime went back and forth, but the Bears had a chance to win in the final seconds with the score tied at 68. But Chery’s jumper bounced off the rim to force a second overtime.
Baylor dominated the final overtime as it scored the first seven points and never looked back.
With the shot clock winding down, Prince banked in a 3-pointer to give the Bears a 71-68 lead. Chery then spotted Heslip streaking downcourt for a layup. Heslip drew a foul, but missed the free throw.
After Kansas State’s Marcus Foster missed on a drive to the basket, Royce O’Neale drew a foul from Thomas Gipson and hit both free throws to give the Bears a 75-68 lead with 2:52 remaining.
After Will Spradling nailed a trey for the Wildcats, the Bears answered with another 7-0 run as Chery drove for a basket and Prince got loose for two drives into the paint. After a slam on the second drive, Prince drew a foul and hit the free throw to push Baylor’s lead to 82-71 with 1:15 remaining.
Prince finished with 12 points in just 14 minutes.
“He came up huge, and I was really pleased and happy for him,” Drew said. “That’s the best he’s played. I think it was the players sticking together. When the fans are encouraging like they were, it’s easier to keep competing.”
Chery recorded the program’s first triple-double since Ekpe Udoh in 2010, and it was the first for a Baylor player in a conference game.
“I thank God for putting me in position to play like I did tonight,” Chery said. “I was probably a little tired at the end of the first overtime, but my teammates kept encouraging me. We came out really hungry, and we hadn’t had that in a long time.”
The Bears also got a tremendous performance from Jefferson, who collected 21 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 34 seconds left in the first overtime. But Chery had the biggest night for a team that desperately needed a win.
“It was nice having him healthy,” Drew said. “Against their pressure, you really needed someone to create for themselves and their teammates, and Kenny really did that. You needed someone with his speed and quickness to track down long rebounds.”