WACO, Texas (AP) — Northwestern coach Bill Carmody had a puzzled look on his face when asked about the importance of having two early-season wins away from home against Big 12 teams.
The Wildcats had just held on for a 74-70 victory Tuesday night at Baylor, which was coming off a win at defending national champion Kentucky only three days earlier that avenged a loss in an NCAA regional final game.
"Oh, TCU? I'm sorry. Who knows who's in any place now, right? They were in the Big East for like 60 minutes," Carmody said. "This is a good team, especially here on the road. We played TCU, they've got a lot of new guys, and it was a neutral court. This is like the teams we play, physical, so it's real important."
Reggie Hearn had 17 points with 10 rebounds before fouling out and Northwestern (7-2) snapped a two-game losing streak.
Hearn made two layups for the Wildcats when they opened the second half with an 11-1 run, building on a 35-32 halftime lead they got when Dave Sobolweski hit a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Baylor bench with 2 seconds left.
"Disappointed because we talked about that at halftime and the first five minutes, to come out and really establish what we wanted to do," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We'll work toward trying to get consistency. You want to try to find that rhythm and that constant ebb and flow and we've not been able to do that this year."
Still, Northwestern barely hung on after building an 18-point lead.
It was the second consecutive home loss for Baylor (5-3), with its big win at Kentucky in between — on the same day the Wildcats were upset at home by Illinois-Chicago after a 20-point home loss to Maryland.
The Bears had won 29 consecutive non-conference home games over a nearly four-year span before a 63-59 loss to College of Charleston on Nov. 24. In their only other game since, they won 64-55 at then-No. 8 Kentucky 64-55 on Saturday to snap the Wildcats' 55-game winning streak at Rupp Arena.
"It's a real good win for us, a road win against a good club, and we haven't been playing that well. We were sort of in the doldrums," Carmody said. "And I thought tonight, we came out and win or lose, at the end, who knew, but I just thought there was a little change in intensity level."
Baylor was within 70-67 when Pierre Jackson made two free throws with 23 seconds left after a midcourt turnover by Sobolewski following an inbound pass. But Sobolewski made a free throw with 17 seconds left, after Northwestern had missed six free throws in a row.
Jackson had 18 points and A.J. Walton had 11 for Baylor.
Drew Crawford had 19 points for Northwestern, which had five players in double-figure scoring. Sobolewski had 13 points, Jared Swopshire had 12 and Alex Olah scored 10.
Northwestern had a 54-36 lead with 11 minutes left on a 3-pointer by Sobolewski.
The Wildcats were up 66-55 with 3:10 left when Olah, who went into the game shooting only 27 percent from the free throw line, made two free throws. But a minute later, right after Hearn fouled out, Olah missed two attempts to start Northwestern's stretch of six consecutive misses.
Swopshire's reverse layup with 1:03 left made it 70-63, and his key free throw with 9 seconds put the Wildcats up 72-67.
"They just outworked us. They wanted it more than we did," Jackson said. "That's about it."
Isaiah Austin, Baylor's 7-foot freshman, made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left when he quickly regained control after Sobolweski deflected the ball on his first chance.
The Wildcats will play only three of their first 15 games away from home, all in Texas. They won both games played in the South Padre Island Invitational on Thanksgiving weekend, including a 55-31 win over Big 12 newcomer TCU.
This was only the second meeting between Baylor and Northwestern, and came exactly a year after the Bears won 69-41 at Evanston.
"They beat us good. It was one of the worst games we've ever had. But it's a different team for them, too," Carmody said. "You think that they're big now, but they're not really big. Last year they were big, and they swatted stuff, and they were really good. And this team is good, and they'll get better and better. But we didn't have a chance last year."