There was a time down the stretch in No. 25 BYU’s eventual 78-71 win over No. 11 Baylor Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd of 17,978 when it appeared the Cougars were going to give up another nine-point lead in a pivotal Big 12 contest.

“My teammates have done a great job just instilling confidence in me and making sure I am staying aggressive. Whether the shots are falling in the moment or not, they have all the confidence in me and I am just very appreciative of that.” — BYU senior wing Jaxson Robinson

With BYU apparently leading 68-59, according to the scoreboard, officials reviewed a shot by Baylor’s Jalen Bridges and ruled it a 3 instead of a 2, making the score 68-60. BYU’s Dallin Hall missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw, and on the Cougars’ next possession, Spencer Johnson and Fousseyni Traore missed difficult shots at the rim and Noah Waterman misfired on a 3-point shot.

Bridges slammed home a dunk — giving the 6-foot-7 transfer from West Virginia 41 points in two games against BYU this season — and after Richie Saunders missed a tightly contested layup and freshman Yves Missi scored on the other end, BYU’s lead was down to 68-64.

An uneasy feeling spread throughout the Marriott Center, as fans remembered similar late-game collapses against Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Baylor in that 81-72 loss to the Bears a month ago in Waco, Texas.

Then Trevin Knell hit a 3-pointer, his third of the game, and the Cougars got a couple of defensive stops, including Saunders’ block off a Ja’Kobe Walter shot.

Analysis: No. 25 BYU ramps up its defense, gets a win it absolutely had to have over No. 11 Baylor, 78-71
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

Jaxson Robinson drained a triple with 1:35 left to push BYU’s lead to 74-66 and the Cougars cruised from there to get arguably their biggest win of the season. That’s the same Jaxson Robinson who hit a huge 3-pointer in the final minute to put away Kansas State on Feb. 10.

It was a pleasing finish for a team that was failing to finish last month. BYU (7-6, 19-7) played to win, instead of not to lose. And the Cougars found the go-to guy that was missing when they started 0-2 in the Big 12 with losses to Cincinnati and Baylor. 

Robinson was stellar in the final two minutes, adding 4-of-4 free-throw shooting after his dagger 3-pointer. He said coach Mark Pope has emphasized playing on their toes the entire game, and with confidence and an attacking mindset.

“My teammates have done a great job just instilling confidence in me and making sure I am staying aggressive,” Robinson said. “Whether the shots are falling in the moment or not, they have all the confidence in me and I am just very appreciative of that. In big moments, I have been able to hit some big shots, so I can’t do anything but praise my teammates for that.”

Knell’s trey with 3:10 remaining can’t be overlooked, either. The redshirt junior’s confidence seemed to sag after he missed a 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining that would have given BYU the lead against Houston in an eventual 75-68 loss.

But he’s regained his swagger recently, having reached double figures in scoring in all four games since he was reinserted into the starting lineup.

Pope said that in Monday’s practice, Knell insisted that they run a drill another time so they could get it right when coaches were moving on to the next portion of practice.

“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, man, to watch and witness as a coach. … This is a player-run team, man. We are blessed with guys that know what they are trying to do and how to do it.”

Despite the impressive win, the Cougars dropped from No. 10 to No. 11 in the NET rankings, the first time they’ve been outside the top 10 in the NET all season. That’s because Creighton leapfrogged them — going from 13 to 9 — with the upset of No. 1 UConn on Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska.

BYU moved from No. 16 to No. 15 in, and is a No. 6 seed in most NCAA Tournament bracket projections.

BYU is now 4-5 in those all-important Quadrant 1 games, and 7-7 in combined Quad 1 and Quad 2 games. The Cougars have already matched their league win total from a year ago, when they finished 7-9 in their final season in the WCC.

Knell (who sat out last year with a shoulder injury) and big man Aly Khalifa have been key additions, but for the most part this is the same team that struggled to a 19-15 record last year.

Cougars on the air

No. 25 BYU (7-6, 19-7)
at Kansas State (5-8, 15-11)
Saturday, noon MST
Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, Kansas
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

“It is our guys’ mentality that is pretty special that has kinda carried the day for us,” Pope said. “It is these guys.”

The Cougars will fly to Manhattan, Kansas, on Friday for another difficult Big 12 road game.

Kansas State lost 62-56 at Texas on Monday night and has dropped three straight games, and seven of its last eight. Since upsetting then-No. 4 Kansas 75-70 in overtime on Feb. 5, the Wildcats have lost 72-66 to BYU, 75-72 to TCU and to Texas, so they aren’t exactly getting blown out in every game.

Coach Jerome Tang’s team is similar to Oklahoma State in that it plays much better at home than it does on the road. It will be a stiff challenge for the Cougars, regardless of KSU’s record.