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The Day After: Baylor

Fans react as Kansas guard Wayne Selden crashes into the seats after saving a ball that was tossed to teammate Joel Embiid for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Fans react as Kansas guard Wayne Selden crashes into the seats after saving a ball that was tossed to teammate Joel Embiid for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The feat the Kansas University basketball team just pulled off cannot be overlooked. Not only did the Jayhawks just rip off four consecutive victories against ranked teams for the first time in school history — and the first time for any program since North Carolina did it in 1997 — but they did so by rising to the occasion each time with incredible energy, confidence and poise at once.

The cherry on top of the four-game sweep came Monday night, as the Jayhawks — and the home fans — got right back up for one more big game and knocked off a scrappy Baylor squad, 78-68, at Allen Fieldhouse.

I'll be the first to admit that the game was tougher for the Jayhawks than I expected it would be, as Baylor controlled most of the first half and made KU work for everything it got. But then that signature Fieldhouse run came in the second half and the Jayhawks took control and hung on down the stretch.

Give Wayne Selden's highlight-reel save credit for really sparking the run.

Although the victories at Iowa State or home against Oklahoma State — both top 10 teams at the time — were more impressive, Monday's victory was solid given the fact that KU was forced to get up for yet another big game and did and the fact that the Bears came in a little bit desperate.

Kansas now controls the Big 12 race even more at 5-0 and, perhaps more importantly, gets a few days off before its next action Saturday at TCU.

Quick takeaway:

The mere fact that KU's most recent opponent nailed 8 of 10 three pointers in the first half alone yet still somehow trailed No. 8 Kansas by two points at the break is one of the more remarkable things I can remember seeing. It was particularly impressive given the fact that KU did not play all that well in the first half on offense and really labored for everything it got. The Jayhawks' defense in the paint really stepped up in the first half to keep KU right there and a better defensive effort on the perimeter in the second half put the offense in position to deal that knockout blow.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – Free throw shooting has long been a sore subject around these parts, as fans of KU basketball — and probably the coaches, too — expect high percentages every time out. For whatever reason, that doesn't always happen, but it did on Monday, as KU drained 26 of 29 free throws, which may very well have been the difference. Three Jayhawks (Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden and Jamari Traylor) were perfect from the foul line and Perry Ellis missed one in the final minute. The only guy to miss more than one was Andrew Wiggins, who was given a pass because his two misses came in 12 trips. Free throw shooting is as much about confidence as anything and these guys really seem to feel as if they're getting free points when they toe the line.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot before Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot before Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Given how red hot Naadir Tharpe has been of late, playing without him for large stretches of Monday's victory was critical for the Jayhawks' psyche. Forced to the bench with two fouls in the first half, Tharpe scored just six points and took three shots in 29 total minutes. He did play the entire second half and never picked up that third foul, but what a nice thing for the Jayhawks to see they could have a little success without their floor leader in the lineup.

3 – A big reason for that success was the play of freshman point guard Frank Mason, who once again asserted himself offensively and was a huge reason the Jayhawks were leading at halftime. Mason showed some of this early in the season but took a step back during the past couple of weeks. It looks as if that attacking mentality is once again at the front of his mind, another good sign for KU, given the fact that Mason is as good as it gets on this team at making something happen when the shot clock is winding down.

Kansas guard Frank Mason swoops in to the bucket against Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason swoops in to the bucket against Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – There's no doubt in my mind that KU coach Bill Self emphasized over and over before this one what a talented outside shooter Baylor's Brady Heslip is. So when you see that Heslip got loose for 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range, including 4-of-4 in the first half, it doesn't take a genius to realize that Self probably was not too happy about that. Four guys tried their luck on Heslip, with Selden and Wiggins having more luck than Tharpe and Mason. Still, all four struggled at times, whether it was going under screens instead of over or losing him altogether. Nothing alarming and and there aren't many better shooters out there than Heslip, but it's definitely a sigh moment given how much it was probably emphasized before the game.

Baylor guard Brady Heslip celebrates after a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor guard Brady Heslip celebrates after a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Baylor entered Monday having forced just 177 turnovers in 17 games, good for a little more than 10 per night. Yet in the first half alone Kansas turned it over nine times. The Jayhawks tightened it up a little in the second and finished with 16 for the game, but far too many of them were just careless mental lapses, magnified by the fact that they came against a team that really doesn't force turnovers that often.

3 – KU's size and length made things tough for the Bears initially inside, but the Jayhawks were outfought for some loose balls around the Baylor rim. The Bears ripped down 20 offensive rebounds and scored 15 second-chance points, most of them coming in the paint. Isaiah Austin is long, Rico Gathers is wide and the Bears' guards did a great job of attacking the offensive glass.

One thought for the road:

KU's hard-fought victory over Baylor on Monday night, which marked its fifth game in 12 days:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in Big 12 play at 5-0.

• Marked the Jayhawks’ fourth-straight win over a top-25 opponent (No. 25 Kansas State, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Baylor). The last school to win as many as four-consecutive regular season games, all against schools ranked in the AP top 25 was when North Carolina did so in February/March 1997. The Tar Heels beat No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 14 Maryland, No. 12 Clemson, and No. 7 Duke in four-consecutive games. Since then, there have been 58 schools to play at least four-consecutive regular-season games against AP-ranked opponents with none of them winning all four games.

• Pushed KU’s record on Big Monday to 50-16 overall, 27-1 in Allen Fieldhouse and was the 21st-straight Big Monday win at home.

• Made KU 5-0 in conference play for the third-straight season and the seventh time in the Bill Self era.

• Made the Kansas-Baylor series 20-4 in favor of KU, including 18-4 in the Big 12 era and 11-0 in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Made KU 707-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 169-9 in the Bill Self era and 8-1 this season.

• Made Bill Self 12-4 all-time against Baylor, 314-63 while at Kansas and 521-168 overall

• Made KU 2,115-816 all-time.

Next up:

After a wild stretch against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks will take a few days off and jump back into action on Saturday, when they play at 8 p.m. at TCU.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Comments

Adam Tyler 9 months ago

Scot Drew has lost more games at Allen Fieldhouse than Bill Self.

Just thought everyone should know, in case they have any Baylor fans in their lives.

Marc Frey 9 months ago

My son is a 2012 Grad. He is aware.

Steve Zimmerman 9 months ago

Smile reason #2, I wonder why Tharpe didn't shoot as much that night, given how red hot his shooting was in the previous 2 games. Smile reason #3 is spot on. Is he more resemble to a bulldog or a pittbull?

I'd like to see more of the Bruise Brothers on the court. Traylor & Black, as others noticed, have been fun to watch when they're together. It seems like they communicate well. More often, we see posts trying to finish the work by themselves - resulting in a one-n-done (or offensive rebound, if we are in luck). But having watched so many games, I think our bigs can coordinate with each other more - like Traylor & Black, when they're getting sandwiched. Very rare did I see Embiid pass to Ellis or vice versa, even when they're open under the rim. Or Wiggins throw a lob pass to the middle, during his penetration. Anyway..

Eliott Reeder 9 months ago

I have noticed this too!!! SO many opportunities for lobs from Ellis to Embiid or vice versa in that OSU game that were missed. They found it once or twice but it was there over and over again...

Brian Mellor 9 months ago

I have trouble working too many sighs over Sighs #1 and #3. Baylor's entire offensive structure seems to be largely Built around second chance points and getting Heslip open for threes. They aren't a bad team, and those are their specific strengths.

But the turnovers . . . . that's GOT to improve.

Dirk Medema 9 months ago

"Baylor controlled most of the first half"

Really? They had a 5 pt lead once. KU had a 4 pt lead once. Mostly though, it was a fairly even distribution between +/-3. Seemed really even. to me.

Steve Quatrocky 9 months ago

1) The "Light" has already turned on for Embiid, Selden, and Mason, but it hasn't yet for Wiggins. He needs to get that laid back, dazed, pouty look off his face and replace it with focus and energy. Same problem Perry had last year about attacking at all times, moving without the ball, looking to jam it down their throat every second of the clock with or without the ball and then realizing that with the focus on him, even if he doesn't make a jump shot all night, he can still score 4-6pts a game off Offensive rebounds and Lobs and another 10 on Free Throws. 2) Getting lost in the rankings hype, the last two wins came over top quality opponents in OSU and BU that have similar future NBA talent and were shooting an unreal percentage from outside (Heslip, Forte), the very formula that has led to early tourney losses in the past. If this team continues to progress towards their ceiling, they should be winning the same games by 20 point margins in the second half of the season. If they cut down the turnovers AND the Light turns on for Wiggs, maybe even more.

Erich Hartmann 9 months ago

Very young team, which means we are still improving. Yes 20+ point margins were the "norm" with the deep and experienced, veteran 2008Champhawks...but these guys are still improving defensively, offensively...and do you think we have ALL the set-plays (over 55) in the half-court offense available and well-rehearsed that those 08Hawks had? (answer: nope).

Also, as pointed out on natl TV during the KState/KU game: Wiggins should still be in high school, but had enough credits to reclassify academically. Think about that. He is leading his team in ppg., while frosh Ellis last year could not. Ben Mclemore spent a whole college year not playing--so we saw BMac at age 20 actually play.

Instead of "lightbulb", how about we be more analytical and say that WiggyBaby needs to continue to mature physically and mentally maybe a small tiny, wee bit more than the next frosh? I dont have any problem with Wiggins. Selfball is a team ball approach anyway. I say keep em (opposition) off balance--> I like a different leading scorer every night with 3 or more guys in double figures every night. That's balance. As long as Wiggins is in those top 2 or 3, he will get what he is working towards, and that is good for KU. Great kid, great family, at a great program with a truly great coach. Enjoy this ride...honestly, guys like Embiid, Selden, and Wiggins are showing about as much consistency as you can hope for frosh to show. Even Calipari would have to concede that our frosh are doing about as well as can be expected. Also understand, regarding Wiggins' stats, that Self's set offense features the bigs.

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