Kansas squeaks past Baylor to grab first place, 73-68

They just don’t lose at home. There’s not a whole lot more to say: the Jayhawks just don’t lose at Allen Fieldhouse.

Josh Jackson, who is making a habit of playing his best against the best opponents on the schedule, scored a career-high 23 points, leading No. 3 Kansas past No. 2 Baylor, 73-68. It was a thriller that lived up to the billing, but the end result was KU seizing outright possession of first place in the Big 12.

Baylor, which is now 0-15 at Allen Fieldhouse, weathered an early storm and took a 34-28 lead into the halftime locker room. Johnathan Motley was picking apart KU’s thin frontcourt, and with the exception of a few three-pointers, the Jayhawk offense was struggling to get anything going against the Bears’ zone.

Early in the second half, the Jayhawks used a 12-0 run to grab a lead, but seemingly every time they would pull ahead, the Bears answered. With 5:04 left, KU led 61-58, and Baylor answered with a three-pointer by Manu Lecomte. Frank Mason responded with a three for KU to grab the three-point lead right back, but the Bears once again answered with another bomb, this time by Ish Wainwright.

With 3:10 left in a 64-64 tie game, Landen Lucas cleared the paint to allow Jackson a free lane to the basket. He slammed down the dunk to give KU the lead for good. With 18 seconds left, the Bears trailed by three with the ball, but stout defense by Kansas forced a game-sealing turnover with less than two seconds left. Baylor never got a game-tying shot attempt off.

Mason had his worst shooting game of the year, going just 3-for-12 from the floor. However, the National Player of the Year candidate made up for it by going a perfect 12-for-12 at the free throw line, giving him 19 points for the night. Jackson led the way with 23, and Landen Lucas’ 11 rebounds helped KU keep pace on the glass with one of the best rebounding teams in the country.

Heading into the marquee showdown, a key would be Kansas preventing Baylor from grabbing too many offensive rebounds, which the Bears collect at a remarkably high rate. Baylor did get 17 offensive boards, but 11 of them came in the first half, and the Jayhawks had 14 to keep pace in that department. The Bears’ interior size bothered KU early on, but halftime adjustments proved to be pivotal, as Motley was held to just two buckets in the second half.

Both teams are 20-2 on the year. Kansas, at 8-1, finishes the first half of league play alone in first place. The 7-2 Bears are one game back, but they get their shot at the Jayhawks in Waco in 17 days.

Amazingly, Scott Drew now has more losses (10 in 10 games) at Allen Fieldhouse than Bill Self (9 in 226) does.

This is a brutal stretch for the Jayhawks, but they’ve done about as well as fans could have hoped for. Two weeks ago, KU was entering a gauntlet; its upcoming seven-game stretch looked like this: at Iowa State, vs. Texas, at West Virginia, at Kentucky, vs. Baylor, vs. Iowa State, at Kansas State. Through the first five of those games, Kansas is 4-1 and in outright possession of the league lead.

As for the officiating, which is all Baylor fans are talking about, KU got major help from the refs all game. 21 fouls were called on the Bears compared to just 10 on the Jayhawks. Baylor, which normally shoots lots of free throws due to forcing it inside frequently, had just six attempts to KU’s 27. Remember this when K-State inexplicably shoots 12 more free throws than Kansas next Monday.

It’s pretty apparent why this team wins the Big 12 every year: they

Notes:

  • Josh Jackson: 23 points (8/13 FG, 5/9 FT) and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. The lights have been brightest in the last two weeks (at West Virginia, at Kentucky, and vs. Baylor), and Jackson has responded with three straight 20-point games.
  • Frank Mason: 19 points (3/12 FG, 12/12 FT), and six assists in 38 minutes. Savor this guy, because his career in Lawrence unfortunately won’t last much longer. He is a special player.
  • Landen Lucas: five points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. It’s like a broken record: he is KU’s most important player. He battled his ass off against the most physical team he’s faced this year.
  • Devonte’ Graham: 13 points (5/9 FG) in 35 minutes. He did all of his scoring in the first half. His defense in the second half was tremendous.
  • Svi Mykhailiuk: 11 points (3/5 FG, which were all threes) in 34 minutes. Other than Frank Mason, he’s the best three-point shooter on this team, I think. Now 42% this year.
  • Mitch Lightfoot scored the only points for KU players off the bench tonight. He played five minutes, and Dwight Coleby had six rebounds in six minutes.
  • Lagerald Vick played 14 minutes and did not score. Self said after the game that he cannot comment on a university investigation.
  • Kansas shot 42% from the floor, 45% from three, and 74% from the line (if you take out Mason’s 12-for-12, the team shot 54%)
  • Baylor: 42%, 36%, and 67%.
  • Both teams had 38 rebounds. That’s a major plus to KU.
  • Up next: Iowa State comes into Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for a 1:00 pm tip.

Ryan Landreth

I'm a junior at MidAmerica Nazarene University. I own and write for Rock Chalk Blog, and I host the Inside the Paint podcast. I also write for Royals Review. I'm sports-obsessed. It happens.