By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Senior guard Frank Mason III scored 23 points, including 16 in the second half to help the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks edge No. 4 Baylor for the second time in two weeks, 67-65 in front of a crowd of 10,021 at the Ferrell Center.
With the scored tied at 65, Kansas senior forward Landen Lucas, a 55 percent free throw shooter on the season, stepped to the line with 11 seconds left and sunk two shots as well as Baylor’s hopes for a share of the Big 12 title.
On the ensuing possession for the Bears, Kansas hounded junior guard Manu Lecomte and his highly contested jump shot missed wide left, preserving the Jayhawk victory.
Mason III said the final play came down to the Jayhawks’ ability to execute on the defensive end.
“I think we were great on that last possession,” Mason III said. “Everyone was locked in with what coach [Bill Self] wanted us to do on the defensive end. Josh [Jackson] showed strong help we just wanted to contest everything and I think we did a good job at making them settle.”
Although disappointed, Baylor head coach Scott Drew said it was another day of basketball in the 12 and credits Lucas for once again stepping up and hurting the Bears down the stretch.
“Another Big 12 game, comes down the one possession. The crowd was tremendous, the atmosphere was great and they made one more play than we did,” Drew said. “I think in our last three close games with Kansas, Lucas has come up with the big rebounds in the last three minutes and we haven’t been able to keep him off the glass when we needed to, so he deserves a lot of credit. Our guys competed, put ourselves in position to win, expected to win, and they just made one more play than us.”
Baylor opened the game with energy, especially on the defensive end. The Bears forced Kansas into turnovers on its first two possessions. They also held the Jayhawks without a field goal for the first four and a half minutes before sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr., who just returned from suspension, scored inside the paint.
The Bears opened up the game with a 15-6 run with Motley and Lual Acuil Jr. using their strength in the paint to get second chance opportunities. However, Kansas would respond with a 9-0, highlighted by am emphatic flush from freshman phenom guard Josh Jackson to tie it at 15.
After Baylor used another 9-0 lead to push its lead to 12 points at 35-23, consecutive three pointers by Mason III and Jackson for the Jayhawks sent Kansas into the locker room with a little bit of momentum, just down six at intermission.
Kansas used the momentum from the end of the first half and carried it over into the second 20 minutes. The Jayhawks shot 46% in the second half and used a 9-0 run capped off by a Mason floater in the lane, to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the game at the 11 minute mark.
Baylor, however, refused to go away, as Motley began to put the ball in the basket, building the lead back up to six at 65-59 with just under than three minutes to play. The Bears went the final three and a half minutes without scoring.
Sophomore guard Jake Lindsey said that Kansas’ execution down the stretch was good as it has been all year and that type of mentality helps win games.
“It definitely hurts. As Coach Drew said, it comes down to execution late in the game against other good teams and they just did a better job than us,” Lindsey said.
Motley led the Bears on the offensive end, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Jackson called it a “full-time job” guarding Motley and was determined to make him work for his points.
“He’s a great rebounder,” Jackson said. “Often times when a shot goes up, it’s really hard to box him out, so he’s get a lot of easy points just cleaning up offensive rebounds. It’s definitely a full-time job guarding him. You can never just take a break.”
Motley was just eight of 21 shooting from the floor.
Lecomte also finished in double figures for Baylor. He was four of nine from three-point range and finished with 16 and Lual-Acuil Jr. added 11.
Kansas was able to win the battle in the paint, outscoring Baylor 36-26 and won the turnover battle 16-9, converting those into 20 points. Jackson, despite playing the final five and a half minutes with foul fouls, scored 16 for the Jayhawks. Junior guard Devonte’ Graham, who averages 13 points per game, was held to seven points and shot just one of 12 from the field, including one of nine from beyond the arc.
Kansas improves to 24-3 overall, 12-2 in the Big 12, as they have a three-game lead in the conference with four more to play. Kansas has now won 10 straight against Baylor and is 8-1 on the season when trailing at the half.
The Jayhawks will now return home to host TCU at 6 p.m. Wednesday. A win against the Horned Frogs will give the Jayhawks at least a share of the Big 12 crown for the 12th straight year.
Baylor drops its second straight game this week and falls to 22-5, 9-5 in the Big 12. The Bears will host Oklahoma at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center. The game can be seen on ESPN2.