KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Head to the floor and towel over his head, Cory Jefferson slowly unlaced his shoes and set them to his right side.
The senior forward had just walked slowly into the locker room with a light dusting of tears on his face after the Bears’ late-game collapse against the now Big 12 champion Cyclones.
After moving his shoes back to the left side of his body Jefferson looked up, finally ready to address the crowd of media hovering around his locker.
“I wasn’t able to bring it today,” Jefferson said. “I wasn’t there for my team on the offensive end.”
Jefferson, who had three double-doubles in his team’s improbable three-game run to the final of the Big 12 tournament, mustered only five points on 2-for-9 shooting in Baylor’s 74-65 loss. The No. 7 seeded Bears were anchored by their senior leader all tournament long, but the mid-range jumpers that had dropped earlier in the week only met a metallic clang against the Cyclones.
He wasn’t the only reason Baylor fell, but the sense of responsibility was evident on Jefferson’s face. Baylor had a chance to do something special, and it fell short.
“We wanted it badly,” Jefferson said. “We would have been the first team in Baylor history to bring [a Big 12 championship] home.”
Jefferson wasn’t alone in quiet mourning after the loss.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Austin spoke with his head to the floor, his barely audible words delivered toward the black-carpeted locker room.
Fellow sophomore Rico Gathers sat on his stool alone to Austin’s right with his hood pulled over his head. Gathers' Dre Beats headphones producing the only sound as he stared icily across the room.
A similar look was shared by all in the Baylor morgue doubling as a dressing room. All the grins produced over the team’s season-saving run the past four weeks – the Bears had won 12 of their last 14 games to secure an NCAA tournament birth – were erased by a late loss.
“This group of guys, we’re not satisfied,” Austin said. “We want to win, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Baylor’s season isn’t over. Their Big 12 championship run likely bumped them up to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. And, given the way the Bears have played lately, as Austin said after the game, “nobody wants to see us.”
But on a cold, rainy night in Kansas City, the only feeling for the Bears was disappointment.
As the media slowly left the locker room Jefferson’s stoic expression said it all. Head fixed toward the ground and jersey still painted on his back, the senior knew his last opportunity for a conference championship had evaporated.
“And that’s what hurts,” Jefferson said.