In the final decisive minutes Saturday at the Ferrell Center, Manu Lecomte kept thinking back to how painful Baylor’s last-second loss to Kansas was last month in Lawrence.
The Bears were in position for their first win at Allen Fieldhouse, but couldn’t close.
This time, Lecomte made sure the Bears put it away.
With Lecomte scoring 13 of his 18 points in the final seven minutes, Baylor finally got the signature win it needed with an 80-64 decision over the No. 10 Jayhawks before a boisterous, energetic crowd of 9,323.
The Bears (15-10, 5-7) won their third straight game and broke an 11-game losing streak against the Jayhawks (19-6, 8-4). Baylor hadn’t beaten Kansas since an 81-58 blowout on March 9, 2013 at the Ferrell Center.
“When you play a team like Kansas that has won as many titles as they have it’s hard to beat them in close games,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “You have to beat them. I thought that’s what we did today is give ourselves a cushion at the end where if we had a turnover or missed a free throw or something we would still be in position to win.”
It was the Bears’ first win after eight losses against Top 25 teams this season. Baylor still has a lot of work to do in the final six Big 12 regular season games to move into position for its fifth straight NCAA tournament berth, but a win over the Jayhawks always looks good on any resume.
Now in a four-way tie for sixth in the Big 12 with Texas, TCU and Oklahoma State, the Bears face the Longhorns in Austin at 8 p.m. Monday.
“I mean every game we’ve got to win,” said Baylor forward Nuni Omot, who scored 17 points off the bench. “Kansas obviously is one of the premier teams, so it was a win that we needed. But with them, they get a lot of calls on the road and they get a lot of calls at home. So like Manu and Coach (Drew) said, we needed to have a lead by 10 over the last three minutes.”
In a 70-67 loss to the Jayhawks on Jan. 20 in Lawrence, the Bears let a six-point lead slip away in the last three minutes as Lecomte missed several critical shots. This time the senior point guard was deadly when the Bears needed him the most.
After the Bears built a 13-point lead early in the second half, the Jayhawks roared back to cut Baylor’s lead to 58-56 when Lagerald Vick scored inside with 7:14 remaining.
Lecomte answered by making a short jumper. After Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil blocked Devonte Graham’s drive to the basket, Lecomte drained a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc. Then he did it again as he buried a long trey from past the top of the arc to open up a 66-56 lead with 4:23 remaining.
“I think the whole team feels pretty confident when I shoot from there, the coaches too,” Lecomte said. “And I was confident in taking them. Every shot I take, I think is going in. I wasn’t shooting well from the 3 in the beginning of the game. But it doesn’t matter really because the whole game I thought Nuni was shooting great. Everybody was playing really well, so I was kind of out there being a facilitator for everybody. And then when we needed a shot up, I took them.”
Kansas coach Bill Self felt comfortable with Lecomte taking both long 3-pointers even though he burned the Jayhawks.
“He actually made two bad shots,” Self said. “I mean let’s call it like it is. Those two 3s he made were probably 27, 28 feet. He’s just a good player and jumped up and made a couple of big-time shots. That wasn’t anything that we did, like a breakdown. Those were hard shots against a zone, and at the end of the clock. They were just clutch plays.”
After Vick hit a free throw for the Jayhawks, Omot drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Bears a 69-57 lead with 3:10 remaining. Lecomte urged Omot, yelling “Shoot it” after he passed the ball to him.
“Manu tells me to shoot every time I touch the ball,” Omot said. “Every time I touch it, if I don’t shoot it, he tells me at the timeout, ‘Hey, shoot it.’ So obviously he does a great job because he has a lot of confidence in me just like I have a lot of confidence in him shooting. That’s just how it’s got to be.”
Lecomte came up with another big play when he drove to the basket, drew a foul from Mitch Lightfoot, and hit the free throw to extend Baylor’s lead to 72-59 with 2:18 remaining.
Graham, who scored a game-high 23 points, nailed a 3-pointer to cut Baylor’s lead to 72-62. But the Bears closed with eight straight points as Lecomte, Omot and Jake Lindsey each hit a pair of free throws and Lual-Acuil got loose for a slam for the exclamation point with 33 seconds remaining.
Fans from the Bear Pit ran on to the court to help the team celebrate after the big win.
Lual-Acuil enjoyed a superb game with 19 points and six rebounds while Lindsey contributed 11 points and three assists. The Bears shot 56.6 percent overall and 53.3 percent from 3-point range, their best in the Big 12 in both categories. Baylor held the Jayhawks to 39.7 percent from the field and won the boards by a 33-31 margin.
“Just another day in the Big 12,” Drew said. “Games are always going to be competitive. When you shoot well you usually win. When you don’t shoot well you don’t. Lately we’ve been making shots and doing a better job defensively making it tough on people to score. It was great to see the seniors step up and have big games because especially down the stretch these are games they’re going to remember the most in their career.”