The Demons then went into overtime before having to play another game—in another city—on Thursday.
Jalan West scored 26 points for the Demons, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in regulation. But Kenny Chery scored 12 of his 20 points in overtime after missing a layup at the end of regulation as the 12th-ranked Bears returned from an extended break with a 91-84 victory Wednesday night.
"I'm proud of both teams, playing a difficult situation," Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. "For both teams to play hard and stay within what coaches are trying to get them to do, that says a lot."
Baylor (9-1) was playing for the first time in 12 days after final exams. The Bears had last played Dec. 6, beating then-No. 3 Kentucky 67-62 at the Dallas Cowboys' massive stadium where the NCAA Final Four will be played in April.
Northwestern State (4-6), an NCAA tournament team last season, is playing two games in two nights at different cities for the second time this season. The Demons play at UTEP on Thursday night.
After Chery was wondering how he missed that layup with 2 seconds left in regulation—"That's a layup I usually make," the point guard said—he had a steal in the first minute of overtime after Sabri Thompson lost control of the ball. Chery picked it up and drove to make a tough short jumper while being fouled. He shouted out while still sitting on the court after the ball went through the hoop to put the Bears ahead to stay. He added the free throw.
There was an assist for Chery on Gary Franklin's 3-pointer in the extra period. After Brison White's jumper got Northwestern State within 82-80 with 2 minutes left, Chery drove for a layup and then made a 3-pointer after a shot-clock violation by the Demons.
"He'll probably be mad about that shot he didn't make to win it at the end of regulation," Baylor coach Scott Drew said of Chery, correctly predicting the junior college transfer who is now his starting point guard.
"He did a great job in overtime," Drew said. "He controlled the tempo, and made a lot of great plays."
Cory Jefferson had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Baylor. Rico Gathers had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Franklin added 11 points.
DeQuan Hicks and Zikiteran Woodley had 15 points each for the Demons, and White had 11.
The biggest shot belonged to West to force overtime, though he wasn't so sure when he let it go.
"Actually I thought I missed it," West said. "I was excited when I saw it go in."
Jefferson had a thunderous two-handed dunk after a behind-the-back pass from Franklin with 2:49 left in regulation that gave the Bears a 74-69 lead, but that wasn't enough to avoid overtime.
West made a jumper before Chery had a bad pass that went out of bounds for a turnover. Northwestern State then got a second-chance tip by White after he missed his own shot with 1:17 left. But Jefferson made two free throws with a minute left for a 76-73 lead.
West missed a 3-pointer, but White got the rebound to give him another chance—and West hit from the top of the key.
Northwestern State had a 38-36 rebounding edge, the first team this season to beat Baylor on the boards.
The Demons stayed in Waco after the game, then faced a 100-mile drive to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday for a day-of-game flight to El Paso and a two-day stretch of games further apart than the last one even while in the same state.
Last month, the Demons won 111-92 at Auburn and then traveled to LSU the next night, when they lost 88-74. It is about 420 miles between those SEC schools.
Before getting home Friday, they will have trailed 1,930 miles over three days, about 670 of those on a bus. It is about 640 miles from Waco to El Paso.
"Our team wouldn't want it any other way. We want to work for it, instead of having it given to us," West said. "The nonconference sets us up for our regular conference. It makes us play better."