Yes, Baylor is now a blueblood like Kansas

As the final seconds ticked by in Baylor’s 75-69 win over Kansas, not exactly a crowd stormed the pitch.

Baylor students and the rest of the 10,219 fans at the Ferrell Center stayed in their seats and cheered after Monday night’s big win. But there wasn’t the post-game chaos that usually accompanies beating a Blueblood coming off a national championship season.

Baylor coach Scott Drew put it into perspective in the post-game press conference.

“I don’t know what it takes to storm the spot now because you’re winning 23 straight, 18 straight, 21 straight, at #1,” Drew said. “I think our students have helped with all of this, so they deserve a lot of credit. We’re very grateful for that, and at the same time our players have done a great job of establishing a new tradition.”

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In essence, the bears themselves have become blue-blooded.

Capturing the 2021 national championship, winning two straight Big 12 titles, winning 23 straight games in 2019-20, 18 straight in 20-21, followed by a 21-game winning streak , which began with the national title run and continued into recent seasons, have positioned Baylor as one of college basketball’s elite programs.

The Bears have held off the best of the best as they have won 12 of their last 13 games against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10.

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Baylor Bears | Full game highlights

Beating a team of Kansas’ stature is always great, but it’s no longer rare or shocking. The Bears have beaten the Jayhawks in four of their last seven games, including two for the first consecutive game after an 80-70 win last February at the Ferrell Center.

Prior to their current success, the Bears had lost 11 straight games to the Jayhawks, going 5-32 in the rivalry. The Jayhawks can no longer claim that dominance. Although Baylor and Kansas have not historically been equals, they are now.

Kansas coach Bill Self didn’t take Monday night’s defeat seriously. He knew his Jayhawks lost to a talented team used to success.

“We (Baylor and Kansas) won the last two national championships, and the year before we were both seeded when the season was canceled,” Self said. “You can argue that Baylor is a staple in everyone’s schedule, but certainly ours as well. We were beaten by a team that should win the league and they are really good.”

As strong as No. 9 Kansas and No. 17 Baylor are this season, they don’t currently sit atop the Big 12. No. 5 Kansas State, No. 10 Texas and No. 12 Iowa State are tied for league lead with 6: 2 while Baylor, Kansas and No. 11 TCU are a game behind, 5-3.

The Big 12 is undoubtedly the best conference in the country and it will be a dogfight until the final weekend. A Big 12 championship is no longer a birthright for the Jayhawks, who have won or shared 16 of the last 18 conference titles but now face formidable competition almost every night.

Self isn’t even bothered by Kansas’ current three-game losing streak against Kansas State, TCU and Baylor. The Jayhawks’ 83-60 loss to TCU at Allen Fieldhouse last Saturday was their second-worst home loss in Self’s 20 seasons.

“We were beaten by a team that’s fifth nationally,” said Self. “We were beaten at home by a team that could have beaten anyone in the country on Saturday. Our league is so good. It’s going to be a grind. Our team isn’t good enough to be disappointed when teams of equal talent play better than us. We don’t have as much room for error as teams have in the past. And the teams in the league have gotten better, which makes it difficult.”

One factor that became pretty clear in Monday’s win against the Jayhawks was that Baylor was a lower bench. Baylor’s Langston Love, Josh Ojianwuna and Caleb Lohner combined for 13 points and eight rebounds while Kansas Bank finished with two points and six rebounds.

Love made the difference in the game as he came off the bench to score 11 vital second-half points while also making some great defensive plays. After going redshirt after an ACL injury at preseason camp last year, Love has become a powerful weapon as a strong, physical 6-5 guard, hitting double digits for the eighth time this season.

“Everyone knows he’s a really hard worker,” Drew said. “He’s a sophomore in college but he tore his cruciate ligament and was rehabilitated, recovered (and) wasn’t cleared for contact until September, October. So he’s behind all the newbies that come in because he didn’t even have the summer. I knew he was going to have good basketball in him this semester and just get better from here.”

As a freshman, Ojianwuna has taken on the role that Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua had for the past two years before a serious knee injury knocked him out. Ojianwuna has given the Bears plenty of energy off the bench and is a defensive and rebounding force, averaging 4.3 boards in 15.6 minutes per game.

Though Tchamwa Tchatchoua made significant progress and did some drills and dunked during warm-ups before the Kansas game, Drew hasn’t specified when he will return. However, Tchamwa Tchatchoua has served as a mentor to Ojianwuna.

“It helps me a lot,” Ojianwuna said. “Not only during games but also in training I will sit near him so he can tell me where to go, what to do. I need to stay close to the likes of Flo (Thamba) and Jon for information and what to do.”

After a 0-3 Big 12 start, the Bears won their fifth straight game and improved to 15-5 overall. They’ve played much better defense during the current winning streak, conceding 67.8 points per game after conceding 87.3 points in their first three Big 12 losses.

While Baylor’s big guns weren’t in action every night, the Bears have enough offensive firepower that they can still win if someone misses the target.

Freshman sensation Keyonte George enjoyed his two best games of the season as he hit a career-high 32 points to start the winning streak in an 83-78 win over West Virginia at Morgantown, followed by a 27-point performance at an 81-74 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.

George leads the Bears with a 16.9 scoring average and has become a strongman for opposing defense. In Baylor’s last two games against Oklahoma and Kansas, George walked off the field in a 5-for-23 combined and scored 19 points.

But the Bears kept rolling as Adam Flagler averaged 14.4 points and 4.8 assists while LJ Cryer averaged 15 points during the winning streak. A steady rebound and defensive force, Thamba has improved remarkably on the free throw line, hitting 15 of his last 17.

Equally important, forward Jalen Bridges averaged 11.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in his last five games while playing excellent defense. His board work has helped the Bears become the best rebounding team in the Big 12 by a plus 5.2 lead.

“This is huge for us,” Cryer said. “He’s a huge piece for this team and for us to go far he needs to play his best basketball the same way we do. He plays hard whether he takes shots or not. Now he’s recording and still doing the little things.”

With Baylor fans dressing for the white-out and filling the stands, Monday’s atmosphere at the Ferrell Center was the best of the season. But Self downplayed the importance of the large home crowd, instead pointing to Baylor’s talent on the floor.

“To be honest, the best home courts have the best players, and Baylor’s had really good players,” Self said. “It’s nothing more than that. We have a pretty good record even at home because we had really good players there. The atmosphere helps, of course, but they have really good guys.”


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