No. 4 Kansas Stifles Baylor to Series-Low Score, 61-44

Jan. 14, 2013

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — An ESPN Big Monday meeting saw No. 4 Kansas hold Baylor to both its lowest scoring output of the season, and in the all-time series, as the Jayhawks used 17 points from redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore to defeat the Bears, 61-44, inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Voted to finish first and second in the Big 12, No. 4 Kansas (15-1, 3-0) smothered the Baylor (11-5, 3-1) offense, allowing six field goals in the first half and seven in the second to total a season-low 23 percent mark (13-for-56) from the field. The defensive push helped the Jayhawks overcome their own season-low 37.7 shooting percentage (23-for-61).

The league’s No. 1 and No. 2 scorers also faced off Monday evening in Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kansas’ McLemore. With both on the Wooden Midseason Top-25 list, as well, McLemore came out on top, leading all scorers with 17 points. He also paced his team with eight rebounds and a career-high three steals before leaving the game late in the second half with an injury. In his press conference following the game, head coach Bill Self announced the injury as an ankle sprain and listed McLemore as day-to-day.

His counterpart, and the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year, Jackson scored 10 points in the first half, but was silenced in the final 20 minutes to finish the night on 2-of-12 shooting. Freshman center Isaiah Austin led the Bears with a double-double, chalking up 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Seniors Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford joined McLemore in double-figures, scoring 12 and 10 points, respectively, but it was the defense that impressed. Kansas racked up 10 steals and 13 blocks as a team in the win, marking the first time this season that KU has tallied double-figures in both defensive categories in the same game.

To start the night, Johnson intercepted a Baylor pass and converted it to a dunk on the other end as the Jayhawks put together an 8-0 run heading into the first media timeout. While Baylor missed eight of its first nine shots, the Jayhawks climbed in front, 12-5. After Austin hit a jumper just 15 seconds into the game, Kansas would hold the Bears without a field goal until the 12:58 mark.

Meanwhile, Kansas climbed to 50 percent shooting midway through the half via transition layups and driving the lane. Slashing to the basket, McLemore made the layup and drew the blocking foul for a three-point play, handing KU its first double-digit lead of the evening, 20-9.

A 9-1 Baylor run, capped by a three-pointer from Austin, pulled the Bears within five, 23-18. Three-straight buckets from senior forward Kevin Young, Johnson and Releford however, quickly curbed any momentum the Bears tried to gather. In less than 90 seconds, Kansas resumed control, climbing to a 29-18 lead as the final media timeout approached.

The Bears weren’t able to secure much more leverage by halftime as KU held the visitors to season-lows in a half with 20 points, six field goals and a 21.4 field goal percentage (6-for-28) to take a 33-20 lead to the break.

A three from Johnson, which tied him with former teammate Tyshawn Taylor for 17th on KU’s career list (120), sparked the Jayhawks’ 9-3 run to open the second half. Although KU’s shooting cooled significantly, the offense benefitted from a focused defense. The Jayhawk defenders forced Baylor to expire its shot clock for the second time on the evening to hold the Bears at bay despite their own shooting woes. Midway through the final frame, neither team was shooting above 30 percent.

In need of a spark to stop a 6-0 Baylor run, McLemore hit a runner through the lane for his first basket of the half. Moments later, he drilled his second to keep KU sizably in front, 53-36, but it was Johnson who reenergized the crowd. With less than six minutes on the clock, Johnson made his way through the Baylor defense and fired off a behind-the-back layup. He drew the foul in the process, bringing the quieted crowd back to life, ready for the final stretch.

Following a three from McLemore, Johnson got them fired up again when he found the Big 12 Player of the Week under the basket for an alley-oop dunk to seal the win. Although McLemore would leave the game moments later with an injury, Baylor would score just two more points out of the last media timeout as Kansas collected its 14th-straight victory, 61-44.

No. 4 Kansas will play at Texas on Saturday, Jan. 19, in a 1 p.m. contest on CBS. The Jayhawks will continue on the road at Kansas State the following Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. on the Big 12 Television Network. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.