Baylor accomplished what 54 opponents before them were unable to do: beat John Calipari in Lexington. The Bears frustrated the Wildcats all afternoon in the nationally televised game on CBS en route to a 64-55 win. This frustration was a result of a genius coaching move by Scott Drew. Baylor had not played one possession of zone in their 6 games prior. Kentucky was coming off a short turnaround after playing Notre Dame on Thursday night in South Bend, Indiana. Baylor on the other hand had a few practice days to prepare for Kentucky. The Bears came out in a 2-3 match-up zone and Kentucky had deer in the headlights look all game long.
Kentucky shot a miserable percentage from the field as Baylor challenged shots inside the paint and tried to dictate where and whom the shots came from. Kentucky ended up 22-71 from the field (29.6%) and 4-22 from 3 point range (18%). The Bears did give up 21 offensive rebounds- a result in large part because Kentucky missed so many shots. But they seemed to come up with tough rebounds at crucial times- thanks in large part to the rebounding of Ricardo Gathers (7 rebounds in 15 minutes) and Baylor's diminutive backcourt of Walton, Heslip and Jackson- who combined for 18 rebounds.
Offensively, Baylor shot 41% from the field as Pierre Jackson managed the game well from start to finish. Jackson led the Bears with 17 points and 5 assists. Isaiah Austin (11), Brady Heslip (10), AJ Walton (11) and Cory Jefferson (10) all scored in double figures as Baylor used a balanced attack to defeat Kentucky.
Prior to the game, John Calipari kept referring to Brady Heslip as "The Shooter" as he gave some scouting notes on the Bears. Unable to recall his name pre-game, Calipari probably remembered his name as he took the Wildcats to the locker room. Heslip hit two key three pointers in the 1st half. The first one came with the Bears trailing 26-24. Heslip nailed a 3 on a pass from Jackson to give Baylor a lead that they would never relinquish.
The second three came with Kentucky trailing 31-29, Pierre Jackson found Heslip open with 2 seconds to go in the half. Heslip silenced the Big Blue Nation crowd of 23,000 with a dagger three pointer right before the half that gave Baylor a 34-29 lead.
In the 2nd half, Jackson controlled the tempo. Even though he had 7 turnovers in the game to only 5 assists, the stats did not indicate how well he played. Probably the key moment in the game came after Kentucky hit a three pointer from Julius Mays to cut the Baylor lead to 49-46. The Kentucky faithful were loud and many teams in the past just unravel in that kind of environment. Jackson on the other hand calmly orchestrated the offense and got the ball around the elbow for an open shot. He drained the shot and initiated contact in the process. The result was an old-fashioned three point play that deflated the Wildcats.
Baylor made 7 out of 8 free throws in the 2nd half to prevent Kentucky from ever getting closer than 4 points. The final result was a 64-55 road win that has to be ranked near the top in Scott Drew's tenure with Baylor.
Scott Drew used a short rotation for this game. He played his starters heavy minutes. Cory Jefferson was sidelined in the 2nd half for a long stretch after picking up his 4th foul. But he ended up logging 29 minutes. Cory had a terrific game- hitting 4-6 from the field; 2-2 from the foul line; 5 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Brady Heslip coming off surgery for the removal of his appendix logged 36 minutes. His value to the team is immense. Even though he only scored 10 points on 2-7 shooting, he grabbed 4 rebounds and just does a great job of making sure things flow well on both ends of the court.
Isaiah Austin (36 minutes) and AJ Walton (34 minutes) both played very well. Austin hit three really big shots in the 2nd half. His first shot was a three pointer to extend Baylor's lead to 8. But then he also had a lay-up out of a timeout to put Baylor up 6 and a short jumper that also stretched Baylor's lead to 6. Isaiah also doubled his block input on the season by registering 2 blocks against the Wildcats.
Walton was nails on both ends- playing with a lot of passion. He is never afraid to do the dirty work. He grabbed 7 rebounds and hit a nice step-back three pointer in the 2nd half that really fired up his teammates and extended a Baylor lead to 9 points.
Jackson played all but one minute. There were some tense moments in the 1st half when Jackson seemed to come down on a Kentucky player's foot after battling for a rebound. He came out of the game for a moment but was able to get treatment and finish the game strong. He played a masterful floor game- 17 points; 5 assists; 4 steals.
Ricardo Gathers is an enormous asset for the Bears. In the past, Baylor would get in physical games and have very little answers with a thin frontline. Quincy Acy always battled hard but he never had the pure strength to move bodies in the paint. The 6-8 260 lb Gathers on the other hand is able to secure tough rebounds and generally discourage other teams from venturing around the basket. He has big time potential to be one of the premier enforcers in college basketball. He logged 15 minutes against Kentucky- scoring 5 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.
Big win for Baylor- next up a quick turnaround for a game Tuesday night against Northwestern from the B1G.