Kansas continues to stake its claim atop the Big 12 with a 74-64 win over Baylor.
Despite all of their strengths, the Jayhawks have been wildly inconsistent at times this season, something that cost them a week ago in a road loss to Oklahoma State. Baylor, meanwhile, had finally shown it could win on the road last weekend by routing West Virginia in Morgantown.
And just like it did against the Mountaineers, Baylor jumped out to a big early lead against Kansas. Less than eight minutes into the game at Allen Fieldhouse, the Bears were up 21-8 after a Taurean Prince three and looked poised to take the Jayhawk crowd out of it early.
But unlike West Virginia, Kansas did not lay down. The Jayhawks launched their own 15-5 run, including hitting three straight three-pointers to cut the deficit to 26-23 with seven minutes left in the half.
The Bears fought to a 33-27 halftime lead, but their fatal flaw came when they allowed Kansas to come out of the gate fast in the second half. Baylor needed to come out of the locker room by making a statement and building off the tone set in the first frame, but instead Wayne Selden Jr. scored seven straight Kansas points to launch a back-and-forth battle that would define the next several minutes.
The game had the feeling of one that would go down to the wire until the final four minutes. A Perry Ellis jumper gave the Jayhawks their largest lead of the game thus far, 63-57, with 3:31 remaining. The dagger came when Kelly Oubre Jr. put Kansas up by eight with two minutes to go, and two free throws by Frank Mason III in the closing minute would slam the door on any last-ditch Baylor effort. The game belonged to Kansas, 74-64, which finished the game on a 15-7 run.
Ellis, who became the 56th player in Kansas history to record 1,000 career points, and Oubre Jr. each poured in 18 points to lead the Jayhawks. Selden Jr. finished with 15 points and Mason III dished out eight assists. The Bears were led by emerging star Rico Gathers, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting.
Kansas has struggled at times on the road this season, losing to Temple, Iowa State and, most recently, Oklahoma State, but it has been perfect at Allen Fieldhouse. The closest a Big 12 team has come to knocking the Jayhawks off in Lawrence this year was Oklahoma, which lost by seven in mid-January.
But while Kansas continues to control its own destiny atop the conference, it won't be an easy ride to its 11th straight Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks still play No. 21 West Virginia twice, and a March 7 game at No. 17 Oklahoma to end the regular season could potentially have at least a share of the conference title on the line.
Baylor, meanwhile, will have to regroup as it stays on the road to play Texas Tech on Tuesday. The Bears remain only three games behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings, but have a tough hill to climb in a stacked conference.