Tom Keegan: Jayhawks resolve to make the most of chances

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets up to defend against a shot from West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets up to defend against a shot from West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Baylor standout forward Taurean Prince took the question head on and spit out the truth in concise fashion.

The question: What makes Kansas so tough to put away?

Prince’s answer: “They don’t stop. They just continuously grind it out.”

That answer applies to how Kansas plays even within possessions that take a negative turn. One statistic stood out to Baylor coach Scott Drew. The Bears turned 20 offensive rebounds into just 14 points. That’s quite a testament to how Kansas is not giving up easy baskets anywhere on the floor.

The deeper Tuesday night’s 66-60 victory at Baylor progressed, the tougher KU’s defense became. Baylor shot 4-of-16 in the final 12:34. The Bears settled for seven three-point shots during that stretch and made just two.

Watching opponents taking shots near the hoop against Kansas these days resembles watching someone who really has to go try to hurry to the restroom in a really crowded bar. Opponents look so rushed, but too crowded to find an easy path to points.

It has such a different look from when KU’s conference road record stood at 1-3 after losses in Morgantown, W.Va., Stillwater, Okla., and Ames, Iowa. Oklahoma State and Iowa State combined to shoot .509 from the field and .476 from three.

In KU’s four road games since then, all victories, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor have shot a combined .341 overall and .326 from three in front of home crowds. In each game, the home team’s leading scorer was held below his conference scoring average.

These days, the home team consistently looks like the rattled one, Kansas the composed one. The Jayhawks make themselves at home everywhere now.

How did such a transformation take place?

“We noticed watching the tape, on the road when we were down, we were just panicking, and we didn’t do that at home when we were down the same amount, even more sometimes, and we were able to come back,” junior center Landen Lucas said. “And we were like, if we just do the same kind of stuff, stay together like we do at home, we’re able to win those games. Once the Iowa State game passed, we figured that out, and we talked about it, and I think we’ve done a good job changing that.”

Good is an understatement.

Baylor took an eight-point lead on Terry Maston’s bucket with 13:48 remaining and scored 13 points the rest of the way, the final three on a meaningless bucket with two seconds left. That’s some pretty serious defense.

— Sports editor Tom Keegan appears on “The Drive” every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on WIBW-TV.