The Day After: Bye Bye, Baylor
The Kansas University men’s basketball team kept their roll going Friday night inside Sprint Center, with a 70-66 victory over No. 5 seed Baylor in the Big 12 tourney semifinals.
Although the game meant very little in terms of the big picture for this year’s team — KU has a No. 1 seed locked up and is all but guaranteed to be the No. 1 overall seed — you never would’ve known it by the way the Jayhawks competed.
Out of the gate, Kansas showed a desire to out-hustle and out-work Baylor to loose balls and rebounds and the Jayhawks’ used a strong second half surge to build a 16-point lead late in the game.
Things got tight in the final seconds, but KU played most of the second half in complete control and now the Jayhawks have an opportunity to add another trophy to their case.
In years past, a banked-in three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that gave its opponent a lead after a sluggish first half might have been enough to rattle a Kansas team. Not this bunch. Not only did the Jayhawks not even blink after Jake Lindsey’s three-pointer that beat the buzzer put them down 23-21 at the break, they also came out determined to put a stop to any momentum the Bears had gained. We’ve talked about it all year, but that kind of resolve is a result of this team’s maturity, veteran status and hunger. Call it what you want, but these guys really just seem to be on a mission and their focus sharpens every day.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Well, if slam dunks do it for you, then this was the game for you. KU threw down eight dunks in this one and it felt like twice that many. So many lobs, so many emphatic finishes and one memorable one by Wayne Selden with attitude. The Jayhawks have shown more of that lately and if they keep it up, that will only help heading into the NCAA Tournament.
2 – As far as starts go, they don’t come much better than the one Devonte’ Graham delivered against Baylor on Friday. And the thing about it is, Graham’s a heck of a finisher, too. Call it confidence, courage, a captains mentality or whatever else you’d like. Either way, the continued growth shown by Graham, who, arguably has been KU’s second best player this season, has made a huge impact on this team and put the Jayhawks in position for a deep run.
3 – It may seem obvious, seeing how he led all scorers with 20 points, but the eight-point run that Perry Ellis went on by himself early in the second half was flat-out nasty. It looked as if Ellis just decided that he was going to take over the game and then went out and did it. It was reminiscent of what OU’s Buddy Hield and Iowa State’s Georges Niang did on Thursday night, and it’s no coincidence that all three guys were first-team all-Big 12 picks. Ellis wasn’t great in the first half, but he more than made up for it with that stretch to start the second that gave Kansas control.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU’s close was atrocious. Remember, this was a 16-point KU lead with 1:51 to play. And if had not been for a Devonte’ Graham free throw with 5.4 seconds to play, Baylor would’ve had a shot to tie it in the final seconds. Self was so displeased with the way his second unit played the final minute that he actually put four of his starters back in the game with 25 seconds to play. All’s well that ends well, I guess. But there’s no doubt that Self will use this as a reminder for everyone on his roster of what can happen if you don’t finish games.
2 – Baylor forced Kansas into 18 turnovers and many of them were the result of careless mistakes. Devonte’ Graham turned it over four times, but made up for it a bit by dishing eight assists. The bigger turnover concern came from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who coughed it up three times. Four other Jayhawks turned it over at least twice.
3 – The Jayhawks have cooled off a little from behind the three-point line during the past couple of games. Kansas made just 4 of 16 from three-point range on Friday, but the bigger issue was that just two Jayhawks were responsible for those four makes. Graham hit three and Frank Mason drilled one in the early going. Brannen Greene continues to press (and barely play) and Selden was 0-of-3 from downtown.
One for the road
KU’s Big 12 semifinal victory over Baylor on Friday night...
• Extended its winning streak to 13 games.
• Made KU 12-4 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (7-3 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors).
• Made Kansas 12-6 in Big 12 Championship semifinal games and 20-16 in all-time league tournament semifinals.
• Advanced KU into the conference tourney championship for the 12th time in Big 12 history and 20th time overall.
• Improved Kansas to 70-26 in league tournament play, 40-10 at the Big 12 Championship.
• Pushed Kansas to 30-6 all-time in Sprint Center, including 3-0 this season.
• Gave Kansas its eighth-straight win against Baylor, making the series 27-4 in favor of the Jayhawks.
• Made Bill Self 381-82 while at Kansas, 588-187 all-time and 35-11 in conference tournament play, 26-6 while at Kansas in the Big 12 Championship.
• Made Kansas 2,182-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks advance to Saturday’s championship game, where they will meet West Virginia for the third time this season. The Mountaineers knocked off third-seeded Oklahoma after a wild finish in Friday's other semifinal. Tip-off for the title game is set for 5 p.m. Saturday.
— See what people were saying about KU's semifinal victory during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 semifinal victory
- Clocked: Selden highlights KU’s semifinal victory over BU
- Keegan: Bragg following Ellis’ development path
- Bears: Some of us got dunked on
- Self’s halftime message to Jayhawks short and blunt
- Kansas knows WVU will bring pressure in title game
- KU to face West Virginia for Big 12 tourney title
- Jayhawks dunk their way to Big 12 semifinal victory
- Keegan Ratings: Once again, Ellis carries KU to victory