After scoring 11 points on their first four possessions, making 9 of their first 11 shots and rolling out to a big lead, the Baylor Bears were probably thinking that the same BYU squad that gave up 93 and 88 points in their last two outings had shown up at the Marriott Center.

But some how, some way, the Cougars rediscovered that defensive intensity that propelled them to their first five Big 12 wins, and just in the nick of time. 

“Honestly, I don’t think it took much from the coaches. It was a team thing. We came together and we knew it was unacceptable, the way we had shown up on the defensive end the last two games.” — BYU forward Jaxson Robinson.

Coach Mark Pope flipped the switch, the No. 25 Cougars started playing the kind of lockdown defense that Big 12 foes Houston and Iowa State are more known for, and rolled to a 78-71 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 17,978 in Provo.

No. 11 Baylor, which had downed BYU 81-72 in Waco last month, fell to BYU for the first time ever under coach Scott Drew, who was 4-0 against the Cougars. It was the first time BYU has beat Baylor since Dec. 1, 1979, and the series is now 6-6.

But this one mattered far more, at least to BYU (7-6, 19-7), than any of those, save perhaps the time Baylor knocked off BYU in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

This was one of those games the Cougars had to have, and they reached out and grabbed it. They made big plays down the stretch, kept Baylor from rallying late like other Big 12 teams have done in Provo, and rode off with arguably their first- or second-best win of the year, the W over Iowa State also being up there.

In recording their fourth-straight win at the Marriott Center and erasing memories of that 93-83 loss at lowly Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Cougars have set themselves up for a decent final five games — beginning this Saturday at Kansas State.

The wins shows “that we can compete with anybody,” said forward Jaxson Robinson, who was Mr. Clutch again in the final two minutes. Robinson hit a triple with 1:35 remaining — his fourth and BYU’s Big 12-high 14th — to give BYU a 74-66 lead. He followed with four straight free throws when Baylor was fouling to stop the clock and finished with a game-high 16 points.

“Jaxson was terrific,” coach Mark Pope said for the umpteenth time this season. “He had a lot on his shoulders today.”

Part of that load was guarding Baylor’s leading scorer, freshman sensation Ja’Kobe Walter, for much of the game. Walter had 13 points, but was 3 of 9 from the field and 0 of 3 from 3-point range. The Bears made their first three 3-pointers, then just two of their final 17.

“I think our shot selection (is what went wrong),” Drew said. “I think we took great shots early. We didn’t take as good of shots later. Credit their defense for forcing that.”

Coaches must have really gotten into these guys for their defense at Oklahoma State, right?


“Honestly, I don’t think it took much from the coaches. It was a team thing. We came together and we knew it was unacceptable, the way we had shown up on the defensive end the last two games,” Robinson said. “So we made a big emphasis. … We came into practice the day before the game and had a tremendous practice and it showed tonight. Everybody was really prepared. We went over the scout and I think we did a great job in every scheme.”

Pope credited assistant coach Kahil Fennel for preparing the scouting report, and the players to executing it well — after the first five minutes. The Bears made nine of their first 11 shots and had an 18-10 lead with 13:18 remaining in the first half.

“It is the leadership from inside the team that responded to this,” Pope said. “That’s what it is. It is inside these players. It is pretty cool to watch and witness as a coach.”

This is the first time BYU has defeated three ranked teams in one season since Jimmer Fredette’s senior season — 2010-11 — and it will go down as the Cougars’ fourth Quadrant 1 win. In other words, it was huge. A loss would have sent the Cougars to Kansas on a two-game losing skid. Now they are bubbling with confidence.

“Our locker room knows that this is only one win and we got a whole bunch more left in us in the season,” Robinson said. “So we are just moving on to the next game and being happy for this win, but after tomorrow we got to move on for whoever we play next.”

Offensively, the Cougars heated up as well. They were 2 of 11 from deep in the first 10 minutes, then went 12 of 25 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. That will win you a lot of games — especially at home.

3 keys to No. 25 BYU’s 78-71 win over No. 11 Baylor
Aly Khalifa’s antics lead No. 25 BYU to win over No. 11 Baylor
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Khalifa, the 6-11 transfer from Charlotte, was just as effective as Robinson. He went 4 of 6 from 3-point range and delivered 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, without turnover the ball over.

He became one of 19 players in the NCAA this year to record that many points, rebounds and assists with no turnovers.

“Aly wouldn’t say this, but this was probably the first day he’s felt like a human being after being so sick (for two weeks the week before last),” Pope said.

Another key stat was second-chance points. The Cougars grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and turned them into 20 second-chance points. Baylor had just four second-chance points, on seven offensive rebounds.

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