Late Flurry Snaps Baylor Losing Skid

Ken Cross

February 03, 2024 at 12:17 pm.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The last week and a half had been hibernating circumstances for the Baylor Bears. Scott Drew’s club lost three in a row and went from a team near the top of the Big 12 to one-game behind Houston in the conference and losing a top 3-4 ranking in the polls.

No Bears went to sleep, however, as they trailed UCF for 31 minutes before a late rally allowed Baylor to end their three-game skid in a 77-69 victory over the Knights.

Losses to Kansas State, Texas and TCU were by four, two and three points, respectively, as the loss to the Wildcats was in overtime, while TCU took a 105-102 win over the Bears in a triple overtime thriller.

The Wednesday night game saw Baylor reverse its trend of not coming back strongly and finishing games in the clutch.

Drew lauded those three losses as keys in being able to make plays down the stretch to knock off the challenging Knights.

“Our experiences the last three games where if we would have converted one possession, we would be first, second or third in the nation,” explained Drew. “That’s the parity in this league. That’s the parity in college basketball. So three possessions from being a top-three team and tonight I think we showed some improvement.”

Drew is known for changing defenses and the Bears have used that strategy over the years as they won the national championship three years ago.

UCF was 7-of-8 from the floor to start the game as guard Darius Johnson scored 10 of UCF’s first 16 points.

“At the beginning of the game, they were shooting so well that we had to try to do something to get them out of rhythm,” said Drew. “It didn’t stop them, but it did slow them down so we could at least get back within a reasonable distance.”

Trailing 25-17 with 9:35 remaining in the first half, Baylor’s Langston Love and RayJ Dennis made back-to-back threes to help cut the UCF lead back to 25-24. Then UCF guard Jaylen Sellers joined the three-point barrage as he hit back-to-back triples to push UCF out to a 35-26 advantage with 2:10 remaining in the first half.

Baylor never really lost it mentally as the Bears knew that a 38-32 halftime deficit was doable if they could come through in the clutch.

The Bears forced 16 Knights turnovers where they scored 14 points off of those and then Baylor had a 15-11 advantage on the offensive glass.

Baylor welcomed UCF’s pressure defense which Drew felt helped Baylor gain momentum as it propelled them to win the game.

“They press and when you press, you are going to shoot threes or attack the rim,” said Drew. “And then, their half-court defense, I thought our guys were really patient and did a good job making the extra pass to be able to attack and drive and do some extra things.”

After Johnson’s three with 8:10 remaining gave UCF a 56-53 lead, the Bears went on a 12-2 run that gave them a 60-53 lead when JaKobe Walter hit a three off the right wing.

Baylor was able to close as Walter was able to convert 5-of-6 free throws and accrue three steals to push the Bears to 4-3 in the Big 12.

While Walter leads Baylor in scoring at 14.9 points per game, he was only 1-of-4 from the floor after going 2-for-12 in the loss to TCU last Saturday.

“He did a good job of taking what the defense got and the 2-for-12 game,” Drew said. “He had some good looks.”

Over the last eight minutes, Baylor held the Knights to 7-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-10 from the three-point line. Inside of their strong defense, the Bears forced four Knights’ turnovers.

“They’re really active,” commented Drew. “They’re really aggressive and do a great job causing turnovers. Sometimes I think that helps you be aggressive. If you have got people swiping at you, it makes you want to swipe.”