Kansas Clinches Ninth-Straight Title Despite Loss to Baylor
March 9, 2013
WACO, Texas – It wasn’t the way they dreamed it up, but Kansas closed the regular season at the top of the Big 12 Conference for the ninth-straight season despite losing its final regular-season game to Baylor, 81-58, at the Ferrell Center Saturday evening.
Pierre Jackson and Corey Jefferson combined for 53 points and provided an answer for every Kansas (26-5, 14-4 Big 12) surge to help Baylor (18-13, 9-9 Big 12) win its first game against KU in the Ferrell Center since 2001. Despite the loss, Kansas clinched a share of its 13th Big 12 regular season title and 56th overall conference regular season title – the most in NCAA Division I history. Kansas’ streak of nine straight is the longest active streak in the country and ties for fifth most in NCAA Division I history.
For one night, Jackson and Jefferson helped Baylor play like one of the best teams in the conference against one of the season-long best teams in the conference. Jackson celebrated senior night with 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting and Jefferson finished one shy of a career-high with 25 points, including his first three made shots from beyond the arc all season.
Kansas was led in scoring by Ben McLemore, who matched his jersey number with 23 points – his highest total in a road game this season – and passed Danny Manning (496) to become the all-time leading freshman scorer in Kansas history with 517 points during the regular season. Perry Ellis (12) and Elijah Johnson (10) also finished in double figures for Kansas, but even though being presented with the Big 12 Regular Season Championship Trophy in the locker room, Saturday belonged to Baylor.
Despite winning the opening tip and scoring in the game’s first four seconds, Kansas found itself behind early as Jackson and Jefferson combined to score 31 of Baylor’s 37 first half points. The Bears moved ahead 4-2 on an Isaiah Austin at 18:42 and never relinquished the lead before entering the break up 37-28.
Jefferson hit his first two three-pointers of the season with each pushing the Baylor advantage to a first-half high of nine points. Jefferson’s first three followed a 7-0 scoring run by Jackson to give the Bears a 22-13 advantage, and his second three capped a 7-0 run by Baylor to end the first half.
Kansas twice pulled within two points as Johnson scored seven in a row to pull his team within two at 24-22. Later, the Jayhawks were just one basket from tying the game after a Withey free throw made it 30-28, but Jefferson or Jackson helped Baylor respond to each charge.
The start of the second half mirrored the opening, with Kansas striking first on a free throw by Withey and a three-pointer by McLemore, but the Bears used a 12-2 run and back-to-back threes from Jefferson and Heslip to extend the lead to 15 with a little more than 15 minutes to play. Jefferson hit back to back shots six minutes later to extend the advantage to 17 points, but Kansas wouldn’t surrender.
Ellis and McLemore combined for an 11-0 Kansas run that saw the lead trimmed to single digits, but 61-55 with just under 6:30 to play was a close as the Jayhawks would get.
The Jayhawks share the conference regular season crown with Kansas State, who also finished 14-4 after dropping a 76-70 decision to Oklahoma State on the road earlier Saturday. By virtue of its regular season sweep of the Wildcats, Kansas will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship in Kansas City’s Sprint Center and will play the 2 p.m. game in Thursday’s first session against the winner the contest between No. 8 West Virginia and No. 9 Texas Tech.
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