Following No. 2 Baylor‘s first loss of the season on Saturday night, a 71-58 defeat at No. 17 Kansas, coach Scott Drew acknowledged the COVID-19 protocols that sidelined the Bears for 21 days are his basketball team’s “kryptonite.”
“We were the No. 1-shooting team in the country, and we’ll get back to that,” Drew said. “But even Superman has kryptonite. And I guess COVID protocols is ours.”
Baylor, which entered the game shooting 43.2% from 3-point range, went 6-for-26 from behind the arc. The Bears shot just 8-for-25 from behind the arc in their first game back, a come-from-behind win at Iowa State on Tuesday.
This was Baylor’s first week back after six consecutive postponements due to COVID-19 issues within the program and the Big 12’s protocols. The Bears practiced last Sunday for the first time in nearly three weeks.
“Anyone that’s had COVID would know when you come back you’re probably not 100 percent,” Drew said. “For people that didn’t [have COVID] and weren’t able to practice or work out, I would think that’s rust or other areas of that. The last thing is, it’s a chemistry game, just like football. You can work out with quarterbacks and running backs all you want, until you work out with the line and the receivers — it’s a timing game too. At the end of the day, you gotta make shots. And normally, when the legs go, it’s hard to make 3s … That will all come, and we’ll get back into that rhythm.
“Again, two plus two equals four. A lot of people go on pauses, but they might not have people that have COVID, and if that’s the case, they’re working out every day, they don’t have snowstorms, they’re practicing. Their comeback time is a lot quicker than other teams.”
Baylor guard Jared Butler, the Bears’ Wooden Award candidate, went just 2-for-9 from the field on Saturday and scored five points before fouling out. MaCio Teague (18 points) and Davion Mitchell (13 points) had stretches where they got into a rhythm on the offensive end, but they shot a combined 12-for-35 from the floor.
Marcus Garrett shouldered most of the responsibility for guarding Butler, who had 30 points in the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season.
“First, you gotta give credit to Marcus,” Drew said. “Second, our staff, we gotta do a better job of putting him in better positions. Then third, you’re going to have nights where you don’t shoot it well. And that was tonight.
“They’ve done a good job also in guys improving and getting better,” Drew later added. “Guys on the rotation are much crisper and cleaner, which you expect. We had three weeks where we got worse, and they had three weeks where they got better, so we gotta catch up.”
The game was back and forth for most of the first half, with Kansas getting out to an early seven-point lead, before Baylor fought back. Kansas took a three-point advantage into halftime, and Baylor never got closer than that in the second half.
Jayhawks forward David McCormack dominated the paint in the first half and finished with 20 points and three rebounds before fouling out, while Garrett contributed 14 points and Christian Braun had 11 points.
McCormack’s 14-point first half set the tone immediately: Kansas was going to use its size advantage against Baylor’s frontcourt, and the Bears would have to adjust. The Bears slowed McCormack down after halftime, but it was too late.
“Let’s give him credit for really helping Kansas, especially the last six, seven games, they’ve really been playing at a high level,” Drew said. “They’ve done a great job getting him the ball. But he’s done a great job being strong, demanding it, being physical, finishing … He deserves a lot of credit for that.”
Kansas dominated the backboards, outrebounding Baylor 48-28 — including 14 offensive rebounds that turned into 17 second-chance points.
“I feel like we were locked in,” Garrett said after the game. “We knew we had to rebound and defend to win the game. That was a big thing we emphasized the whole week.”
Kansas has now won six of its past seven games, with the lone loss coming in overtime at Texas on Tuesday. The Jayhawks have held seven straight opponents to fewer than one point per possession, and Baylor’s 58 points on Saturday were the lowest the Bears have scored all season.
After looking like an early out in the NCAA tournament, Kansas is playing as well as any team in the Big 12 entering the postseason.
“We finished 12-6 in a ridiculously hard league when we sucked for three weeks,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You take those three weeks out of it and we performed consistently well. Of course, you can’t do that. But to play the entire slate of games and play everybody twice, a lot of teams across America would love to be 12-6 in the toughest league in America.”
Baylor could drop from No. 2 in the country in next week’s AP poll for the first time all season, and the Bears have a difficult three-game stretch to finish the regular season: at West Virginia on Tuesday, home against Oklahoma State on Thursday and home versus Texas Tech on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, they came up here and outplayed us in certain aspects of the game and we lost,” Teague said. “We gotta be tougher than that. We just gotta be better.”
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf contributed to this report.