Baylor knocks off No. 6 Kansas, 85-77

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WACO – It's not quite March, but this was madness.

The list of improbabilities Monday night at the Ferrell Center ran on seemingly endlessly. So did the midcourt celebration by Baylor fans after the Bears shocked sixth-ranked Kansas, 85-77, before 9,523, the fifth-largest crowd in the arena's history, and an ESPN2 national cable television audience.

Baylor stunned Kansas during a first half in which the Bears scored the game's first 10 points, then slowly stretched the lead to 20 and beyond. The Jayhawks made the kind of second-half run expected of a Top 10 team. But Baylor didn't wither even after Kansas got within four points with five minutes remaining.

That was as close as the Jayhawks got. When it was over, Baylor (16-6, 5-6 Big 12) had its first victory over a ranked team after 17 consecutive losses and its first over a Top 10 team since beating then-No. 3 Arkansas in 1990. Kansas, which hadn't lost to Baylor in six meetings, fell to 19-4, 8-3.

And the Baylor fans, who didn't let rain stop them from enjoying a massive tailgate-like party that began outside the arena two hours before tipoff, stormed the Ferrell Center floor for the first time in recent memory.

"That's special," Baylor senior point guard DeMarcus Minor said. "You see it at other schools. It's great that our fans can take part in something like that."

It was beyond special for the Baylor players, who are trying to revive a program that didn't win a conference game just two years ago. Senior Terry Black, who had seven dunks among his 20 points, said he couldn't come close to describing the feeling.

But there was vindication in it for Baylor, too. Minor, after the game, fished a crumbled piece of paper from his pocket and passed it among reporters. It was a copy of a newspaper clipping in which Kansas forward Kenny Gregory was quoted last week after the Jayhawks' loss to Iowa State, saying, "It's not like we just lost to Baylor or Texas A&M."

Black, after not missing many opportunities on the floor – he hit eight of 10 field goal attempts and four of six free throws – didn't miss one afterward, either.

"Well," he said, "it was only Kansas. It wasn't like it was Duke or [North] Carolina."

The Bears got everything they needed. They shot lights-out in the first half (55.9 percent) and over 50 percent for the game. They got another strong defensive effort. Minor dished out nine assists and didn't commit a turnover.

They even got seven points and nine rebounds from seldom-used sophomore center Steve Othoro, who logged 26 minutes. Before Monday, Othoro produced nine points and five rebounds in 49 minutes spread over Baylor's first 10 conference games.

Probably most shocking of all was the 25-point halftime lead.

"The first half, I was totally stunned and totally embarrassed," said Kansas coach Roy Williams, whose Kansas teams (since 1988-89) had never faced a 25-point halftime deficit. "We can't spot anybody that kind of lead."

Sophomore guard Kirk Hinrich scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half, leading a furious comeback that seemed like it would bring Baylor all the way back to earth. Not quite. Baylor coach Dave Bliss called a timeout with the lead down to six points and asked his team a question.

"I said, "If before the game I told you that you could be six points ahead with five minutes left, you'd be grateful, so go play like it,'" Bliss said.

The Bears did, making 14 of 19 free throws down the stretch to seal an unlikely outcome.