WSU (4-6) fought valiantly all game long, having a lead with just under 11 minutes to go. Baylor (8-2) outscored WSU from that point forward 23-16. The Cougars had a chance to bring the game within a possession, down by four with 39 seconds to go, but couldn’t get the shot to fall and Baylor dodged the upset from WSU.
The Bears entered the night ranked fifth in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings, but the Cougar defense was up to the task early and often. The Cougar defense did a fantastic job making life hard for the Bears offense; creating tough shots, takeaways and not allowing the Bears to get anything going from beyond the arc. Baylor shot just 4/14 from three in the first half and had eight turnovers. Offensively, the Cougars received a huge boost with the return of Jabe Mullins coming back from injury. Mullins came off the bench five minutes into the game and picked up right where he left off, scoring eight points in the first half, leading off with a pullup mid-range and a pair of treys. The Bears finally took the lead for the first time with 10:39 to go in the first half and grew the lead up to six at the halftime break.
Powell continued to scorch the bottom of the net to open the second half, knocking down back-to-back threes to pull the game within two. WSU’s defense kept the high-octane Bears offense at bay and T.J. Bamba began to come alive with a go-ahead three. Despite WSU’s best efforts defensively, there's a reason the Bears are ranked 11th in the nation. Baylors’ Keyonte George began to take over. A personal 7-3 run launched the Bears right back in front with eight and a half minutes to go. For every shot the Cougars made, Baylor answered right back with two of their own. The Bears eventually pushed the lead up to eight with 1:41 to go. Bamba brought the game within six with a pair of free throws and after a steal and fastbreak layup for Kymany Houinsou and the Cougars were back within four with 55 seconds to go. Houinsou fouled Adam Flagler with 39 seconds to go to send Baylor to the line for one-and-one free throws. Flagler missed the first and D.J. Rodman collected the rebound.
If WSU could score quick, they’d be within a possession with time to still play defense, get a stop and get one last shot. The Cougars looked to be in a daze as they passed the ball around the perimeter looking to try and find an open shot. After 24 seconds of looking for a shot, Bamba finally took one, a stepback three, that missed and the Cougars hopes for a miraculous upset fell short.
Despite the loss, the Cougars held their own against a team competing for a national championship. The defense locked up one of the best offenses in the country to their second lowest scoring output on the season and the offense looked much improved with the return of one of the best three-point shooters in the country.
WSU will now head south to Hawaii, spending the holidays playing in the Diamond Head Classic. The first game will be against the George Washington Colonials on Thursday.