Even facing the No. 2 team in the nation and playing without one of its top frontcourt players didn’t stop No. 3-ranked Kansas, which won its 51st consecutive game inside Allen Fieldhouse, 73-68, Wednesday night against Baylor.
Down a key sub, due to sophomore Carlton Bragg’s suspension, the Jayhawks played just one bench player, sophomore Lagerald Vick, double-digit minutes, and rode their capable starting five to a gritty victory over the long and talented Bears.
Freshman Josh Jackson, just as he did at Kentucky in another marquee victory, posted a double-double, with a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, helping Kansas secure sole possession of first place in the Big 12 midway through the conference slate.
Senior Frank Mason III got going in the second half by drawing fouls and connecting on timely shots, leading to a 19-point night for KU (20-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12) — despite shooting 3-for-12 from the floor.
Though senior big Landen Lucas scored just five points, he grabbed 11 boards and made a timely layup to put Baylor (20-2, 7-2) in a four-point hole with 1:13 left.
View a gallery of images from Wednesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Bears at Allen Fieldhouse.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Kansas closed the game in style. Tied at 64 with 2:44 left, the Jayhawks made enough free throws and stops to come out on top.
It helped that Mason came out and asserted himself on offense to open the second half, setting the tone for the Jayhawks after a lackluster opening 20 minutes. The senior point guard got to the free-throw line by attacking the BU defense for easy points in the opening three minutes and scored a basket to give KU a six-point advantage less than four minutes in, after Baylor led by eight at the break.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discussed his team's 73-68 win over Baylor on Wednesday, KU's defense down the stretch and finishing 2-1 against three straight ranked opponents.
As a team, KU shot 10-for-27 in the first half, with Jackson and Graham the only Jayhawks finding consistent success. While that duo combined to shoot 8-for-15, Mason (1-for-6), Vick (0-for-2), Svi Mykhailiuk (1-for-1), Dwight Coleby (0-for-1) and Lucas (0-for-2) combined to make just 17 percent of their attempts prior to intermission.
The Bears’ defense remained fairly effective down the stretch, but with the rabid crowd and the Jayhawks feeding off each other with every big basket or defensive stop, Kansas, per usual, prevailed on its home court.
• Offensive highlight: In a tie game, with Kansas in serious trouble late against BU, Jackson didn’t hesitate when the Bears gave him an opening along the baseline.
Beginning a straight-line drive for the hoop from the right corner, Jackson rose up as only he can do, to throw down as crucial a late-game dunk as you’ll find.
It gave KU a 66-64 edge with 2:26 remaining.
• Defensive highlight: Just to remind everyone in the fieldhouse — and the Bears — that he exists in a realm far above the rim, Jackson soared for a ridiculous block in the final minute of the first half.
With the Jayhawks needing as many stops as they could get, trailing by eight, Jackson met an Al Freeman floater in the air and denied the Bears a chance to build a double-digit lead before halftime.
Mason got his first bucket of the game on the next trip down the floor, and KU only trailed 34-28 at the break, after suffering through a dismal offensive stretch most of the first half.
• Key stat: Second-half free throws. The Jayhawks needed every one of them, and hit 16 of 23 over the course of the final 20 minutes, during a game in which they only shot 42 percent from the field.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday for their second regular-season meeting with Iowa State (1 p.m., ESPN). KU won, 76-72, versus the Cyclones Jan. 16, in Ames, Iowa.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.