With the unflinching approach the Kansas basketball team has shown all season long, the Jayhawks took a major step toward the program’s 13th-consecutive Big 12 championship Saturday afternoon, with a 67-65 road victory at Baylor.
Senior point guard and team leader Frank Mason III put up 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, as No. 3 KU (24-3 overall, 12-2 Big 12) took a three-game lead in the conference standings with four regular-season games left on the schedule, sweeping the No. 4 Bears (22-5 overall, 9-5 Big 12).
Kansas only made 42 percent of its shots from the floor at Ferrell Center, and connected on just five of 20 from 3-point range. But the Jayhawks out-scored BU 36-26 in the paint and got baskets when they needed them most, with the game in the balance.
View a gallery of images from Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Bears in Waco, Texas.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: When crunch time came along, the Jayhawks did what they do best: win.
KU had missed five straight field goals and trailed 63-57 with 4:11 to play. But that didn’t stop them from delivering multiple big plays to close out the game.
First, Mason scored on a layup out of a timeout. Then, freshman Josh Jackson (16 points) drove and finished with a lay-in.
Soon after, Mason dished from near the free-throw line for a vicious, one-handed Jackson jam — set up by a Landen Lucas offensive rebound (one of the senior center’s six on the offensive glass).
Junior guard Devonte’ Graham nailed two free throws to tie it at 65 with 2:16 to play.
Finally, Lucas grabbed another clutch offensive rebound, off a Graham missed 3, with 11 seconds left and went to the free-throw line to nail two tries for the winning points.
Baylor’s last field goal came with 4:18 remaining and the Bears missed their final four shots from the floor.
• Offensive highlight: Mason to Jackson proved to be a recurring electric combination for Kansas.
The first time the two connected in the open floor, Mason lobbed an alley-oop high above the rim as Jackson soared in from the right side to cut Baylor’s early lead to 15-13.
The next time the two had Baylor’s transition defense backpedalling in scramble mode, Mason opted for a drop-off bounce pass and Jackson finished the fast break by rocking the rim with a one-handed jam, making it a 26-23 Bears lead.
The dynamic duo were at it again in the final seconds of the first half, with Mason drawing the attention of the defense at the top of the key to set up Jackson for an NBA-range 3-pointer that allowed KU to enter halftime trailing by just six, despite KU shooting 37.9-percent from the floor in the first half.
A couple minutes into the second half, Mason and Jackson got the Kansas fans in Waco on their feet again, this time by finding a hole in BU’s half-court defense. Mason once more was able to lob a pass up near the backboard and let Jackson do the rest. The senior point guard set it up by driving hard into the paint. Then, on what looked at first like a tear-drop shot, Mason set Jackson up for a powerful two-handed slam, trimming Baylor’s lead to four.
• Defensive highlight: We’ll give this honor to a string of Jackson plays, as well. On top of all his other contributions, the 6-foot-8 wing made himself a rim protector for Kansas.
Jackson swatted away three Baylor attempts in the first half alone — none more impressive than a smack off the backboard when big man Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had initially maneuvered past him inside.
The freshman finished with four blocks, one off his career-high of five (versus Nebraska).
• Key stat: Rebounding. Baylor doubled up on KU on the glass in the first half, out-rebounding the visiting Jayhawks 22-11 in the first 20 minutes.
Kansas did a much better job on the boards in the second half, allowing the defending Big 12 champions to recover in a game in which they trailed by 12 late in the first.
In the final 20 minutes, KU out-rebounded Baylor 16-13.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will get a few days of rest to recover from a week of facing two top-10 teams before returning to Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday to take on TCU (6 p.m., ESPN2).http://www2.kusports.com/photos/2017/feb/18/314633/
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