By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Kansas coach Bill Self called Manu Lecomte's clutch long-distance 3-pointers in the last six minutes of Saturday afternoon's game "bad shots."
Not if he's open.
Starting with a tough baseline jumper in traffic, Baylor's senior guard scored eight in a row and 13 of his 18 points in a 22-8 closing run that sparked the Bears to an 80-64 upset of the 10th-ranked Jayhawks before a Ferrell Center crowd of 9,323.
"Back in the day, if you shot it from 30 feet, coaches went nuts," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team snapped an 11-game losing streak to Kansas and won its third game overall in improving to 15-10 overall and tied for sixth in the Big 12 at 5-7. "It's like (Oklahoma's) Trae Young, if he shoots a deep shot and it's open, he's probably going to make it. If Steph Curry shoots a deep shot and it's open, he's probably going to make it.
"If people want to leave Manu open from there, I'd like them to."
Even after missing his first three from outside the arc, Lecomte said, "Every shot I take I think is going in."
"I think the whole team feels pretty confident when I shoot from there. The coaches, too," said Lecomte, who hit the first trey from at least 27 feet out, standing on the "B" of the Baylor that stretches across midcourt on the Ferrell Center floor. "And I was confident in taking them."
Self, though, said neither of Lecomte's 3-pointers were defensive breakdowns by the Jayhawks, who fell to 19-6 overall and second in the Big 12 at 8-4.
"He actually made two bad shots. I mean, let's call it like it is," Self said. "Those two 3's he made were probably 27, 28 feet. He's just a good player, and he jumped up and made a couple of big-time shots. That wasn't anything we did, like a breakdown. Those were hard shots against a zone, and at the end of the (shot) clock. They were just clutch plays."
Until that closing stretch, Lecomte was scoreless in the first half and had taken just seven shots for the game.
"Everybody was playing really well, so I was kind of out there being a facilitator," said Lecomte, who added six assists, one steal and two turnovers in 37 minutes. "I've got to be out there and make good decisions and not try to force any shots. And when I get an open one, I'll shoot it."
The difference between this one and the Bears' 70-67 loss at Lawrence on Jan. 20 was the finish. Kansas scored nine unanswered points to rally from a six-point deficit in the last 2 ½ minutes to remain unbeaten against Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse.
Lecomte admits that it was in the back of his mind, the way the Bears failed to close in road games against Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
This time, "the coaches put up a great game plan and called the right plays at the end, and we made the plays work by executing," he said.
"That was the main thing, finish the game," Lecomte said. "Against Kansas, you've got to be up by 10 in the last few minutes, and I thought we did a great job today."
The ultimate dagger for Kansas might have been a corner trey by Nuni Omot that stretched the lead to 69-57 at the 3:10 mark. Lecomte drove through traffic on the baseline, passed out to Omot and shouted out orders, "Shoot it!"
"Manu tells me to shoot every time I touch the ball," said Omot, who had 17 points and six rebounds and was 3-of-4 from outside the arc. "Every time I touch it, if I don't shoot it, he tells me at the timeout, 'Hey, shoot it.' He has a lot of confidence in me just like I have a lot of confidence in him shooting. That's just how it's got to be."
Baylor got a good inside-outside balance with Jo Lual-Acuil scoring 19 points and grabbing six rebounds, Jake Lindsey adding 11 points and Mark Vital pulling down 11 rebounds and coming up with a big block at the end of the first half.
Kansas, held to a season-low 20 points in the first half and 64 for the game, got 23 points from guard Devonte' Graham and 14 points off the bench from Malik Newman.
"Every game is huge now because we had dug ourselves such a hole. You know how important each game is," Drew said. "The great thing in the Big 12 is there is no bad loss and there's only quality-win opportunities. It gives every team an opportunity to control their own destiny from the standpoint that if you win enough, you're going to be in the tournament and have a chance to play in March."
While it was far from a traditional storm-the-floor celebration after knocking off a top-10 team, Baylor's students celebrated the win on the floor with the players and coaches.
"We haven't had that in a long, long time," Drew said of storming the court. "It's a tribute to the program and where it is. But, I think anytime you see your players get a chance to celebrate with students, that's always a good thing. And you're happy for the students, because when they come out to games and put in support, they deserve to have fun like that at times as well. I already told our guys, just make sure they're resting tonight. They already did enough celebrating."
In a quick turnaround, the Bears will host Texas (15-10, 5-7) at 8 p.m. Monday in Austin in a "Big Monday" broadcast by ESPN.