No. 10 Kansas rallies late to beat Baylor, 70-67
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self has relied on a four-guard lineup all season, one that is designed to attack the basket aggressively, draw fouls and get to the free throw line.
He was fortunate one of those four guards stepped up Saturday night.
Malik Newman scored seven of his game-high 24 points in the final minutes, bailing out the rest of his sluggish teammates, and Baylor turned the ball over on the last inbounds play as the No. 10 Jayhawks escaped with a 70-67 victory that kept them atop the Big 12.
“We were lucky,” Self said, “to have one guy out there putting defense on its heels.”
The Jayhawks (16-3, 6-1 Big 12) trailed 67-61 with 2:05 to go before Newman went on his scoring binge, giving them the slimmest of leads again. The Bears (12-7, 2-5) had a couple of chances after that, but Manu Lecomte missed a 3-pointer and a layup attempt high off the glass with three seconds left.
Devonte Graham added a pair of free throws before Baylor squandered a chance at the final shot.
"(Newman) put us on his back and all we needed was to get those stops,” Graham said, “and we did.”
It was the Jayhawks’ 11th consecutive win over the Bears, who have never won in 16 tries in Lawrence. It was also the closest Baylor has come during any of those games.
Graham finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Udoka Azubuike had 14 points and seven boards, but he was just 4 of 11 from the foul line and missed two crucial ones late.
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had 14 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out for Baylor. Nuni Omot added 14 points and Lecomte had 10, though he was 3 of 12 from the floor and 1 of 8 from the 3-point arc.
“Very frustrating. We’re as good a team as them. We know we can beat them,” Lecomte said. “They’re a really good team. They never give up. Next time we have to make sure we keep that lead.”
Allen Fieldhouse has been Baylor coach Scott Drew’s personal house of horrors — the closest he had come to winning had been the Bears’ 73-68 loss last season. And when the Jayhawks opened the game by making their first seven shots and taking an 18-5 lead, it looked as if this one would be no different.
It took Drew burning through nearly all his timeouts to settle Baylor down.
Shots eventually stopped falling for Kansas as the Bears picked up their defensive pressure, and their deficit dwindled to 32-26 before a late flurry left them in a 38-27 halftime hole.
Kansas began the second half determined to get Azubuike the ball in the paint, and he made good on his first couple of chances. But when he failed to execute a few times in a row, Self greeted him during a timeout with, “Are you kidding me?” — spiced up with an extra word.
The Jayhawks still led 52-47 midway through the second half when Baylor went on a 16-4 run.
Omot started it with a bucket in the paint, but it was seven free throws by the senior forward that did the real damage. Lual-Acuil’s basket with 4:39 left gave Baylor a 61-56 advantage.
The Bears scored on nine consecutive possessions down the stretch.
Newman finally turned the momentum, though. He converted a three-point play and a nifty drive on a run-out, then knocked down another basket to give Kansas a 68-67 lead with a minute left.
“When the game is on the line, Coach always says that players make plays,” he said. “I was just trying to be aggressive and we came out with a win.”
HONORING JO JO
Kansas honored two-time All-American Jo Jo White with a video tribute before tipoff. The seven-time NBA All-Star, whose jersey hangs from the Allen Fieldhouse rafters, died Tuesday at the age of 71.
BYE, BYE BILLY
Kansas freshman Billy Preston signed with a pro team in Bosnia on Friday, ending any chance the five-star prospect will play for the Jayhawks. Preston had been held out all season while the school looked into the finances of the car he was driving during a November accident.
Baylor has lost its last five games to the Jayhawks by a combined 20 points, no doubt adding to Drew’s frustration. Six of the Bears’ seven losses this season have come against ranked teams.
Kansas has won five straight to grab ahold of the Big 12 race, though none of them have been very comfortable. The Jayhawks’ winning streak has been by a combined 18 points.