Despite rolling through the Big 12 schedule this season, one team has stood in the way of Kansas: the No. 1 Baylor Bears.
In what will certainly be a decisive result in the Big 12 regular season title race, the Jayhawks held on to take care of the Bears 64-61 Saturday afternoon.
After dropping the first matchup at Allen Fieldhouse 67-55 on Jan. 11, KU bounced back Saturday, snapping Baylor’s win streak at 23 games and grabbing another Big 12 road win.
And even though the Bears got off to an early 5-0 start, the Jayhawks bounced back with a quick 9-0 run to take the lead. KU never gave up the lead the rest of the first half, with Baylor going on scoreless stretches and missing free throws (8-for-15).
KU also was able to control the paint, led by senior Udoka Azubuike who paced the Jayhawks with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
However, Baylor went on a late surge to cut the KU lead to 34-31 at halftime.
The Jayhawks were also in foul trouble, with sophomore guard Devon Dotson, junior guard Marcus Garrett and sophomore forward David McCormack picking up three-plus fouls.
KU also led by as much as 11 midway through the second half, but the Bears took a stand with less than five minutes to play.
At the under-four timeout, Baylor cut the lead to 56-53, looking to take its first lead of the game since the 17:17 mark in the first half.
The Bears even cut the lead to 62-58 with 26 seconds left to play, following that up with a 3-pointer from guard MaCio Teague to cut the lead to 62-61.
But KU managed to hold on for the win late and secure a tie with Baylor for the lead in the Big 12 standings.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when:
KU was able to hold off a late Baylor comeback in the last four minutes.
The Jayhawks led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but a late Baylor comeback made things interesting down the home stretch. KU found its lead cut down to three with just a couple minutes to play, and it wasn’t perfect — KU committed late turnovers and Baylor hit big shots inside.
But the Jayhawk defense — led by Azubuike and Garrett — and made free throws down the stretch from Dotson and transfer senior guard Isaiah Moss sealed the narrow victory.
• Offensive highlight:
Near the end of the first half, KU was trying to hold off a resurgent Baylor team. And with 2:57 left, the Jayhawks went to their most reliable option inside — Azuibike.
Dotson received a pass on the wing from Braun. Dotson then received a screen from Azubuike, and as he dribbled to his right, Azubuike rolled inside. Once he saw the big man roll inside, Dotson threw up a pass that Azubuike slammed home over Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie.
Azubuike was once again a dominant force in the paint, shooting 11-for-13 from the field.
• Defensive highlight:
With Baylor and KU being two of the top defensive teams in the nation, it wasn’t surprising to see nearly every shot contested and ultimately a low-scoring game.
And it was Azubuike — the best player for KU on Saturday — who also had the defensive highlight.
Down 58-53 and needing a bucket, Baylor junior guard Mark Vital dribbled inside. Vital turned inside, but instead of an open look, Azubuike met him at the rim for a crucial block with his left hand.
It saved a basket and put an exclamation point for an impressive performance on both ends by Azubuike.
• Up next:
KU comes back home to play Oklahoma State on Monday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.