By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
KANSAS CITY, Mo. –
Team Highlighter might be ready to have a postseason full of highlights.
A year ago, Baylor was one-and-done at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. The Bears were also without Perry Jones III, who had been declared ineligible by the NCAA. And back then they were wearing "boring" uniforms.
Thanks to the clothing company with which the school has a contract, Baylor wore bright – bright – yellow unis. Think brand new tennis balls or the kind of pens students use to signify important passages. Maybe it had to be the new duds. Or maybe it was just PJ3.
With Jones scoring a career-high 31 on 11-of-14 shooting, the fourth-seeded Bears (26-6) rolled past No. 5 seed Kansas State, 82-74, in Thursday's first quarterfinal game. Baylor will face top-seeded Kansas in a semifinal game at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
"Maybe it was the uniforms," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We saw who were passing to."
The Bears shot 56.9 percent and committed 14 turnovers. The Wildcats (21-10) had not allowed more than 80 points all season – and that came in an 84-80 victory over Texas.
"We probably played the second-worst defensive game we've played all year," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "Baylor had a lot to do with that. We were so bad defensively today. It was a joke."
When Jones got on the team plane to fly here, his teammates applauded. He stayed home and watched his teammates lose to Oklahoma 84-67 and end their season. Jones made sure that wouldn't happen against K-State.
"I opened up my whole arsenal," he said. "We got one game. If we lose, we're out, so just give it all on the floor. And that's what I'm doing. I was just in the zone today … just being aggressive and more assertive."
Jones sparked an early Baylor advantage by scoring eight points during an 11-2 Baylor run. His arsenal included a 3-pointer, a baseline jumper and a three-point play.
Kansas State rallied to tie the game at 27-all on a three-point play by Jordan Henriquez with 6:43 to play in the first half but Baylor's Brady Heslip's 9-0 run (two 3-pointers and a three-point play) helped the Bears regain control.
Despite career highs by Henriquez in points (22) and rebounds (14), Kansas State was unable to mount a serious charge in the second half. 'The Wildcats cut the lead to five points on three different occasions but never got closer than that.
As the lower-seeded team in the semifinals, Baylor will wear their new uniforms but in basic black instead of neon yellow. For one day at least, the color scheme might have provided an edge.
"I think it kind of distracts the other team," said Baylor's Pierre Jackson, who had 13 points and eight assists. It gets their eyes on us, not the ball."