via The Sports Xchange
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Throughout the season, defensive improvement has been something Kansas coach Bill Self has stressed to the Jayhawks.
Playing shorthanded Wednesday against No. 2 Baylor, the ability to make stops surfaced over the final two-plus minutes when No. 3 Kansas needed them most.
Baylor senior Ishmail Wainwright missed a contested 3-pointer inside the final minute and the Bears could not even get the basketball as far as the top of the key on another trip as Kansas triumphed 73-68 in noisy Allen Fieldhouse.
“Our guys kept hanging in there, they kept grinding and we really played good defense the last two-and-a-half minutes,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought we disrupted their rhythm a little bit because we pressured them more in the second half. The biggest thing is, we just competed better.”
After getting outrebounded in the first half, the Jayhawks forged a 38-38 tie on the glass. Freshman guard Josh Jackson had a double-double with 23 points and 10 boards, while senior forward Landen Lucas managed just five points but grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
In addition, he set a strong screen on one of the biggest baskets of the game.
Jackson faked his man in the corner, then bolted for the hoop and the screen from Lucas prevented any help defense. Jackson’s dunk with 2:25 remaining gave Kansas the lead for good, 66-64, in a game in which the teams traded margins 10 times.
“I figured if I faked the guy, he’d jump because I’d made a 3 earlier,” said Jackson, “and Landen did a great job sealing another guy on the baseline so it was really easy.”
The win was the 51st in a row at home and the 37th straight against a Big 12 rival as the Jayhawks (20-2, 8-1), gunning for a 13th consecutive league title, took a one-game lead at the halfway mark of the conference race.
Meanwhile, Baylor coach Scott Drew suffered his 10th loss in a building where Kansas coach Bill Self has dropped only nine games in 13-plus seasons.
“One day we’ll win up here, just not this year,” Drew said.
The Bears had their chances. Junior forward Johnathan Motley had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior point guard Manu Lecomte added 16 points, while junior forward Terry Maston came off the bench to add 14.
After Kansas grew more stingy in the second half, Baylor shot just 40.6 percent after leading 34-28 at halftime.
“They were just forcing us to take jumpers,” Motley said.
The foul line was unkind too for the Bears. They made 4 of 6 free throws, while the Jayhawks went 20 of 27, including a 12-for-12 performance by senior point guard Frank Mason, who added 19 points and a game-high six assists.
“Our main focus was to get tough, box out and get rebounds,” junior guard Devonte’ Graham said of the second-half rally.
Graham added 13 points, while junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk added 11.
Both teams shot 41 percent for the game after Kansas came in leading the Big 12 with a 49.8 percentage and Baylor led the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (38.3).
Motley fueled the Bears to their halftime lead on 6-for-10 shooting. Baylor shot only 42.9 percent as a team, but made five more field goals than the Jayhawks, who went 10 of 27.
Jackson paced the Jayhawks with 13 points and seven rebounds. He was 5-for-8, but the remainder of the Kansas team went 10-for-27 and had fits with the Baylor zone.
The Bears led by as many as eight. They used a 7-0 run to overcome a one-point deficit while the Jayhawks missed seven consecutive shots. Motley scored at the 1:47 mark of the first half, missed an opportunity for a three-point play, but Maston followed the miss with a dunk for a 34-26 lead.
A 20-10 advantage on points in the paint was also instrumental in the Bears’ first-half surge as they capitalized on the Jayhawks’ lack of inside depth. Baylor, however, managed just a 26-24 scoring edge in the paint for the game.