No. 20 Baylor beats No. 3 Kentucky

ARLINGTON, Texas — Isaiah Austin contended that Baylor could contend with No. 3 Kentucky.

“We have just as great a faculty and staff,” he told the Dallas Morning News this week. “Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form.”

Baylor’s 67-62 win on Friday night at AT&T Stadium makes it a whole lot more difficult to argue Austin’s point. Wildcats coach John Calipari certainly wasn’t in the mood to debate.

“They outhustled us, they outworked us. They deserved to win,” he said.

The win really didn’t come until early Saturday morning, thanks to Kentucky’s need for four overtimes to dispatch Baylor’s women’s basketball team in the early game, 133-130. That was the highest-scoring game in women’s college basketball history.

Just 12,818 fans filed into the cavernous home of the Dallas Cowboys thanks to a Friday night ice storm, but the overwhelming majority showed up wearing blue.

“I don’t know how these people got here,” Calipari said. “They must have been on dog sleds or something.”

The rest of the season will determine how right or wrong Austin is about his team, currently the nation’s No. 20 team but one that’s sure to rise in the polls next week.

On Friday night, though, the Bears length and athleticism had them looking every bit as good as the hyped Wildcats. It gave Baylor the best win of any team in the Big 12 this season and clinched the Big 12-SEC challenge for the Big 12, who took a 6-2 lead in the 10-game series.

The Bears’ trailed 50-41 with just over 13 minutes to play, but Kentucky made just two field goals the rest of the way and a pair of Kenny Chery free throws gave Baylor the lead for good with 6:01 to play. Baylor outscored Kentucky 26-12 in the game’s final 13 minutes.

“I’m really proud of our guys after getting down big in the second half,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.

The Bears improved to 8-1 with their lone loss coming to No. 4 Syracuse in the championship game of the Maui Invitational last week.

Kentucky, who began the season with aspirations toward an undefeated season, suffered its second loss after the Bears outrebounded them 41-25, thanks to 13 from Rico Gathers and eight from Cory Jefferson.

“Rico felt at home in an NFL arena,” Drew said of his burly 270-pound forward.

Baylor had 18 offensive rebounds among its 41 boards and left Calipari shaking his head at all the 50/50 balls that Baylor swiped to earn a win.

“It’s always an emphasis to hit the boards,” Gathers said, adding it’s one of three keys for the Bears in every game. “I’m always looking to get a rebound, even on my own shot.”

Added Calipari: “Three rebounds, four rebounds down the stretch, we win the game. They got every single one of them. That’s who we are right now.”

Who Kentucky is right now is a team that doesn’t look a whole lot better than Baylor, who’ll get a friendly bump in the polls next week after one of the biggest wins in Drew’s decade in Waco.

Hyped freshman Julius Randle’s Dallas homecoming was spoiled by more than just an ice storm. A sleuth of Bears swarmed him in the paint constantly, and Baylor’s zone held him to just 16 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting. The eight boards tied his season-low through Kentucky’s 7-2 start.

“We were just pushing all night,” Gathers said. “And they didn’t like it.”

Is Baylor Kentucky’s equal? The Wildcats have the hype, the five-star recruiting class and the gigantic fan base willing to travel to the ends of the earth to see Big Blue play.

Friday, Baylor got the win.

“It wasn’t no hype to us. We’re a great program just like they were a great program,” Bears forward Cory Jefferson said. “So it wasn’t no mismatches as anybody may think. We just came out two great teams playing hard.”