Kenny Chery made the Ferrell Center crowd stay a little longer than expected, but the fans who stuck around saw him deliver quite a finishing act.
After missing on a drive to the basket in the final seconds of regulation, Chery scored 12 points in overtime to lift the No. 12 Bears to a 91-84 win over Northwestern State on Wednesday night.
Chery finished with 20 points and 10 assists as the Bears (9-1) survived a major scare.
“That definitely was a layup I usually make,” Chery said. “So I needed to be aggressive and help us come out with a win. Everybody was patient and set good screens, and we ran the right plays at the right time.”
Tied at 76 at the end of regulation, Chery started his overtime outburst by driving for a basket. He drew a foul and hit the free throw for a three-point play to give the Bears a 79-76 edge.
The Demons cut Baylor’s lead to 82-80, but Chery drove for another basket with 1:49 remaining. The point guard kept stretching Baylor’s lead as he buried a trey and finished off the win with four free throws in the final 25 seconds.
Playing their first game in 12 days following their Dec. 6 win over then-No. 3 Kentucky at AT&T Stadium, the Bears didn’t deliver a sharp defensive performance and were outrebounded by the smaller Demons, 38-36.
It was the first time the Bears had been outrebounded this season.
“I was most disappointed on the glass and defensively because those areas have been strengths all year,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “You can look at a lot of things – we went through finals and we hadn’t played in 12 days. But credit Northwestern State for beating us to the ball.”
But the Bears produced enough scoring to overcome their defensive problems. Cory Jefferson collected 22 points and 10 rebounds while Rico Gathers amassed 19 points and 10 boards.
“I tried to score when I got the ball down low,” Gathers said. “But we had a lot of missed opportunities and didn’t take advantage of the 50-50 balls. We’re going to have to work on that in practice.”
Gathers started for the first time this season in place of Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who didn’t play in the first half due to what Drew called a “coach’s decision.” Austin saw his first action with 15:25 left in regulation and played just nine minutes and didn’t score or rebound.
The Bears needed three players with double-doubles to overcome a 26-point performance by Jalan West who nailed four treys. His 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 76.
“That was a very big play – he has great command of the game,” said Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy. “He believes he’s going to make shots. We’ve got some tough minded kids.”
The Demons (4-6) cut Baylor’s lead to 70-69 when West nailed a trey. But Chery answered with a baseline jumper and Gary Franklin threw a behind the back pass to Jefferson for a slam to stretch Baylor’s lead to 74-69 with 2:46 remaining in regulation.
Northwestern State cut the lead to 74-73 with Brison White’s putback with 1:20 remaining, but Jefferson hit a pair of free throws with 59.9 seconds left before West hit the tying shot for the Demons.