The Play that Saved Baylor's Season

With the Bears staggering along at 4-8 in Big 12 play, with half of those wins coming courtesy of TCU, a single play changed the Bears fortunes and turned their season around.

It makes sense that the play that turned the Baylor Bears season around involved multiple offensive rebounds and a made 3-pointer. Those are the two things that the Bears do at an elite rate, and carry their efficiencies and offense like few other teams in the country. Down 3-points at home, all it took was a missed free throw and the subsequent defensive rebound by the Bears to go along with 3 offensive rebounds and a shot 3-feet behind the 3-point line that splashed into the net as the red-light went off.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This is a story about a moment that changed a season. However, to get the full impact and consequence of that scene, you must know a little about where the Bears were at.

The Bears were once a Top-10 team in the country, 12-1 and looking to make a mark in the Big 12 and possibly even end the reign of Kansas. That promise though was quickly dashed by the way of a 2-8 start in Big 12 play, that led some to write articles such as this (To Worry or Not to Worry). It was a team that lost its ability to win at home, losing 4 games in a row after winning 13 games in a row at the Ferrell Center, the 2nd-longest streak in program history.

With a win over TCU a few days earlier to "improve" to 3-8 in conference play, a 5th straight home loss would have been a dagger in the hearts of the Baylor faithful, and created an alternate universe that most don't want to imagine.

The situation is a 57-54 Kansas State lead with their leading scorer Marcus Foster on the line for the 2nd foul shot. After making the first one, the freshman star had a chance to put the Wildcats up 2 possessions with 23.8 seconds left to go. However, Foster missed the shot, with Cory Jefferson securing the uncontested rebound easily. Jefferson quickly gave the ball to junior point guard Kenny Chery who got the ball up the court quickly. The Bears did have a timeout to use, but Coach Scott Drew set the play up during the previous stoppage to get the Bears into a good situation.

As you can see, the Bears are running a double screen to free up Chery. Both Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin are at the top of the 3-point circle screening to give Chery a free lane to his right. Both Brady Heslip and Gray Franklin are stationed near the corners as outlets for penetration for open 3-point looks.

With the Wildcats covering the initial screening action very well, Chery reverses the court, and comes back to the right side of the arc. Isaiah Austin sets a back screen, but it doesn't really matter. Gary Franklin also attempts to come around Chery to setup a kickout option, but this is now obviously a play to get Chery a shot in the lane.

Chery uses a hesitation dribble to get around the Wildcat defender. Kansas State had anticipated that the Bears would use a pick-n-roll on them, and instructed their defenders to switch on the screen. This left power forward Thomas Gipson on Chery, whom he got past easily.

However, Chery was forced into a tough shot, as his primary defender Marcus Foster, was switched down low on Jefferson. When Foster saw that Chery had gotten past Gipson, he came out and challenged the shot. This made the jumper more difficult, and was subsequently missed.

However, the ball would would take a large bounce, and with all of the defenders moved into the paint area to contest the shot, the ball hit the court and started to head out of bounds. The shot would hit the rim at 12.3 seconds. Kenny Chery would react to the ball at 11.3 seconds, and with 10.1 seconds left, would save the ball out of bounds. Look how far Chery had to travel in just 1.2 seconds to get that ball.

With Chery displaying tremendous hustle and awareness to chase down that rebound, he found senior guard Gary Franklin open well behind the 3-point line. Franklin would pump-fake once, and then take a desperation 3-pointer with 8 seconds remaining in the game. With Chery out of bounds, Austin and Heslip still at the top of the 3-point arc, it left only Cory Jefferson down low. However since the Wildcats were scrambling still, 6-foot-2 guard Marcus Foster was tasked with blocking out the 6-foot-9 Jefferson.

Jefferson would easily jump up and snag the offensive rebound for the Bears with just 5.6 seconds to go. He would then gather himself very quickly and release a 3rd shot of the possession just 0.8 seconds later. But do not just pay attention to Jefferson on this key series. Look at where Isaiah Austin is now. He has sprinted down into the paint, moving from outside of the 3-point arc to just outside of the restricted circle in 2.2 seconds, putting himself in excellent rebounding position with 6-foot-2 Will Spradling blocking him out.

Also take a long look at the lone figure on the entire left side of the court; Brady Heslip. With the defense scrambling, four Wildcats are pretty much in the paint and also more on the right side of the court. The only player not in the paint for Kansas State is near Kenny Chery on the right wing. Heslip is all alone and realizes it. He has his hands up right when Jefferson gets the ball, begging for a pass that would not come. At least not yet.

Cory Jefferson's shot would hit off the rim and bounce right to Isaiah Austin, who first corrals it with 3 seconds left in the game. However, he quickly fumbled it, but that might have the single act that saved this game. His fumble of the ball took his momentum and possibly attention towards the wide open Brady Heslip. With 2.5 seconds to go, Austin would see the senior marksmen.

As you can see, Brady knows the ball is coming his way and is in perfect position to receive the pass and begin his shooting motion. His feet are squared up to the rim, his body aimed more at the incoming pass, and his knees are bent and ready to begin his jump shot. Brady would catch the ball with 1.6 seconds left to go, and release it with 1.2 seconds to go, an insane 0.4 second catch and release, or pretty much as quickly as anyone can realistically do such a thing.

Of course, you know what happens next. The shot splashes through the net, and the Bears go onto win in double overtime, winning the 2nd game in a 4-game winning streak. After that shot went through the net, the Bears would win 9 more times and fall just twice. It was a shot that not only saved a game, but more than likely, a season.

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