Every time Bill Self and Scott Drew get together in Waco, Kansas and Baylor play close games for about 35 minutes, but it’s always the Jayhawks that go on a late run to grab control and escape with a win.
Saturday was no exception, as No. 3 Kansas ended the game on an 8-0 run to defeat No. 4 Baylor, 67-65, and all but lock up a 13th straight Big 12 title.
The entire day was a game of runs. Baylor opened the contest by taking a 15-6 lead, but the Jayhawks fired off a 9-0 spurt to the things up. Immediately following that, the Bears went on an 8-0 run to grab a lead they held for the rest of the half. After Landen Lucas got his second foul with five minutes left, things were in position for Baylor to take a commanding lead to the locker room. With one minute left, they led by 12. But consecutive threes by Frank Mason and Josh Jackson cut the deficit in half to get the Jayhawks back within striking distance.
It’s a recipe we’ve seen time and time again from Kansas: play a mediocre first half but stay within striking distance.
KU needed eight minutes to tie the contest in the second half, as it opened the half on a torrid scoring streak. Baylor’s turnover woes plagued them as the Jayhawks tied things up at 47 at the under-12 timeout. Frank Mason hit a floater and Svi Mykhailiuk buried a three to give KU its first lead of the game, capping a 12-0 run to seize control. Immediately after that, Baylor went on a 9-0 run of its own to reclaim the lead.
Baylor’s defense held KU without a field goal for more than six minutes. With 3:34 left, the Bears held a 65-59 lead after two free throws by King McClure. They wouldn’t score again.
Josh Jackson made a layup on an assist by Frank Mason. Then, Jackson made a dunk, once again via a Mason assist. With under two minutes left, Devonte’ Graham grabbed a steal and made two free throws to tie the contest, and then after some great defensive possessions by both teams, Graham launched a would-be, go-ahead three with 15 seconds left. He missed, but Landen Lucas emerged from a pile with an amazing rebound. He was fouled, and he buried two crunch-time free throws to give KU the lead at 67-65.
One final great defensive stand from the Jayhawks locked up the victory.
Baylor’s normally-mediocre three-point offense was stellar on Saturday, as the Bears went 8-for-18 (44%). The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were way under their season average, going 5-for-20 (25%). What helped Kansas was free throws; KU went 16-for-20 at the line, including 12-for-14 in the second half.
Frank Mason was also spectacular. He added to his Player of the Year resume with 23 points, eight assists, and 8-for-8 at the free throw line. Josh Jackson added 16 points for the Jayhawks.
Kansas has won nine straight games against Baylor.
KU is now 24-3 overall, and at 12-2 in conference play, the Jayhawks hold a three-game lead on everyone else in the league.
Up next for Kansas: the Jayhawks will return home to play TCU on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. Tipoff is at 6:00 pm. If Kansas wins, it will secure at least a share of its 13th straight Big 12 title.
- Frank Mason: 23 points (7/12 FG), eight assists, and 8-for-8 at the line. He’s the Player of the Year.
- Josh Jackson: 16 points (7/14 FG) and a career-best four blocks, which oddly allowed the Jayhawks to have an 8-2 advantage in blocks.
- Landen Lucas: eight points and seven rebounds, six of which coming on the offensive end. His two free throws won the game. This is an incredibly physical team he was playing against, so he earned every one of his stats.
- Devonte’ Graham: seven points (1/12 FG, 1/9 from three) in the worst game of his season. He hasn’t made a two-point basket in two weeks.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: three points (1/6 FG). He was brutal on both ends of the floor, but Mason was so good that it made up for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lagerald Vick starts the next game.
- Lagerald Vick: eight points (3/5 FG) and six rebounds. He’s KU’s best option at the three-spot right now.
- Carlton Bragg and Mitch Lightfoot both played limited minutes. KU is still screwed if Landen Lucas gets hurt.
- KU: 42% from the floor, 25% from three, and 80% from the line.
- The Jayhawks had 18 assists on 23 baskets.
- Baylor: 43%, 44%, and 82%.
- The Bears out-rebounded KU, 35-27. But KU had an 8-2 advantage in blocked shots.
- KU also forced 16 turnovers, which is very good.