KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The takeover continues. Baylor athletics continue to prove that the Bears are on the prowl.
You may have heard the football team won 10 games and a bowl game plus had a Heisman Trophy winner. The women's basketball team is the only undefeated squad in Division I – men or women. Baylor's Brittney Griner is the odds-on favorite to be named player of the year.
Baylor's men's team started the season 17-0 but since mid-January it appeared the Bears would be walking around campus being asked, "How come you guys can't keep up with football and men's basketball?"
That has changed. No. 4 seed Baylor advanced to Saturday's Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship game with an impressive 81-72 victory over top-seeded Kansas in Friday's semifinals. The Bears (27-6) will face No. 2 seed Missouri, an 81-67 winner over Texas in the second semifinal.
Those hoping for a Game Three between Kansas and Missouri were foiled by Baylor's victory. And six hours before the Bears play the Tigers, the Lady Bears take on Texas A&M in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship at Municipal Auditorium.
"I thought that this was really a night that helped us grow up," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had lost twice to Kansas by a total of 32 points. "We've won close games all year long. But against KU and Missouri (four of the six Big 12 losses suffered by Baylor), and I think they've made runs that we haven't had answers for."
In both losses to Kansas, the Jayhawks took control with dominating runs. After KU fell behind 53-40 less than four minutes into the second half, the Big 12 champions responded with an 18-3 run to grab a 58-56 lead with 10:18 remaining. The Bears were in the process of missing 14 of their 16 shots and it appeared a meltdown was in full progress.
This game was different. The Bears were the closers. Brady Heslip's 3-pointer – the first of three he would hit down the stretch – restored Baylor's lead. Perry Jones III had a dunk and a drive for consecutive baskets to push the lead to 63-58.
Kansas was stymied the rest of the way, particularly when Heslip hit consecutive 3-pointers inside the final two minutes.
"Whenever Brady puts a shot up, we all think it's going in," said Baylor's Pierre Jackson, who had 13 points and seven assists. "I'm glad he had the confidence to take it. I'm glad he hit both of those big 3s. We needed them."
Kansas, which shot 61.4 percent from the field and made 10-of-15 3-pointers in Thursday's quarterfinal victory over Texas A&M, missed 11 of its 13 3-point attempts while Baylor was 9-of-19 from long range.
"We didn't get the stops we needed," said KU's Tyshawn Taylor, who finished with 20 points. "We left a shooter (Heslip) a couple of times and he made some big shots. I mean, when the game is that close and in that situation, we can't leave the best shooter on the court."
Kansas is the Big 12's gold standard in men's basketball. Since 2005, the Jayhawks have lost twice in the Big 12 Championship. Both times, they've lost to Baylor. In 2009, the ninth-seeded Bears knocked off top-seeded Kansas in the quarterfinals in Oklahoma City. That was considered a fluke.
Baylor 81, Kansas 72 was no fluke.
"They were better than us tonight, no question," Self said. "They beat us. Make no mistake about that."