LAWRENCE — The men’s basketball game last week between Kansas and Baylor saw two of the best teams in the Big 12 Conference, not to mention the nation, face off inside Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks came in off of a win against Iowa State, but with a crushing loss against Kentucky not far behind. The Bears came in off of a win against West Virginia, with their own Big 12/SEC Challenge defeat against Alabama to move further on from. Both owned top 10 rankings in the coaches poll, and still do this week after Kansas topped Baylor with ease.
But what was that experience like for the Bears behind the scenes? What was the message the Baylor coaching staff delivered before, during and after the Jayhawks won 83-59 in front of a raucous crowd? The sixth episode of the ESPN+ show “Our Time: Baylor Basketball” provided an inside look at that.
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Before the game
While it’s unclear exactly which day this scene occurs on, the episode takes viewers into a meeting where Bears assistant coach John Jakus is talking about Kansas’ offense. Most of the Jayhawks’ damage, he’s saying, is done in three areas. Those three areas he outlines are transition, off of offensive rebounds and senior guard Ochai Agbaji.
“So, we’re going to make it about a bunch of things,” said Jakus, who also noted how many shots Agbaji and junior guard Christian Braun taken in comparison to their teammates. “But those three things, we can’t lose.”
The show then cut to an interview Baylor head coach Scott Drew appeared to be doing for the show, in which Drew describes Allen Fieldhouse as one of the tougher venues to play at in the Big 12. In a separate interview, Bears associate head coach Jerome Tang would describe a potential win on the road at Kansas as being like a “plus one” because of what that requires. And it’s clear, from a meeting in which Drew is shown talking to the team, that what Drew felt would be a necessary component of earning that victory would be being tougher and more physical than the Jayhawks.
“It’s non-negotiable,” Drew said. “All right?”
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During the game
In the first half, at a timeout with the Bears trailing, Drew told his team it was OK as long as it started to get its act together right then. However, Baylor continued to encounter issues. And facing a 39-21 deficit at halftime, Drew’s message in the locker room was clear.
“Coach Jakus’ first point, what was it? Transition. So, they got 15 points in that,” Drew said. “Coach Jakus’ second point? Offensive rebounding. They got 15 points. How many is that? Thirty. They got nine points other than that. Now, I love you guys. I’ve never been embarrassed and I know you were embarrassed, but our offense can’t dictate what we do defensively.”
The official box score lists the Jayhawks as having 13 fast-break points in the first half, but the message holds. Baylor saw this coming, and didn’t perform well enough to stop it. Drew would go on to highlight a number of the areas where the Bears struggled, and say that isn’t Baylor basketball.
Drew did also tell his players they still had a chance. He was looking for them to have a better 20 minutes in the second half than they did in the first. But as the highlights of the second half were shown, which included Drew’s technical foul for how he disagreed with a call, it’s clear that reality wasn’t going to come to pass.
Agbaji and Braun both scored 18 points against the Bears. Each played about 32 minutes. In that time, to Jakus’ earlier third point, they combined to take 25 of the 62 shots from the field Kansas took.
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After the game
As Drew spoke to his team postgame, he told everyone the Jayhawks were tougher than them that day. He told them the Jayhawks were better than them that day. And he followed that up, by saying, “We’ve got to find out if they’re just better than us, or not.”
Many of the points Drew then touched on echoed those he and Jakus had made previously in the episode. There were a number of things Drew said they need to evaluate. He told them he looked forward to playing Kansas again, “because I know they’re not that much better than us.”
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Since that game, the Jayhawks lost a close one on the road at Texas and the Bears handled Kansas State on the road. Kansas has an opportunity to sweep the regular season series on Feb. 26 when the two sides play at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. After that, opportunities for a third and even a fourth meeting exist in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
Baylor is still the defending national champion.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism