Icy Veins Lift No. 12/13 Kansas Over No. 21/22 Baylor, 56-55
WACO, Texas — Sophomore Brannen Greene saw no better time to extend his streak de clutch. No. 21/22 Baylor needed a stop and used a foul to save precious time in the game’s final seconds. Greene didn’t flinch and kept his season’s perfect free throw mark intact, tallying the last crucial points needed for No. 12/13 Kansas to kick off the Big 12 Conference season with a 56-55 win Wednesday night inside the Ferrell Center.
In order to extend a conference-opening win streak longer than any of the current players’ lifetimes, Kansas (12-2) squared off against a stingy Baylor (11-3) squad. The Bears entered the night ranking in the top-15 nationally for points allowed per game (56.1) and top-30 in the country in opponent field goal percentage (37.7). The Bears also had a 12-game home win streak on its side, but it was the Kansas streak that ultimately held out. The win marked the 24th-consecutive year that Kansas has opened conference play with a victory.
Yet, with a minute remaining, there was zero way of knowing who would come away with the win. After a brutal first half that held both teams under 30 percent shooting, the game took a sharp turn from painful to thrilling. Sixty seconds ticked away as Kansas made seven-straight shots and pulled ahead by a single point, 54-53.
Acting quickly, freshman guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. came up with the critical steal, swiping Baylor’s last chance at an actual possession. What resulted sent Greene coolly to the line, even ignoring BU’s timeout in the middle of his two attempts. The sophomore guard has not missed a free throw since March 5, 2014 and his only ones of the night came with six seconds left. Since Baylor’s Kenny Chery made both of his just one second later, Greene’s icy focus put the signature touch on KU’s lockdown finish.
Baylor’s zone and length kept Kansas from finding a rhythm in the opening half. Kansas converted on just 8-of-29 shots for a meager 18 points. In danger of losing its Big 12 opener for the first time since the 1990-91 season, the Jayhawks stepped it up. They hit seven of eight shots in the last eight minutes and posted a blistering 72.7 shooting percentage (16-22) in the second half to start their 10-straight Big 12 title defense.
While Greene finished with 12 points, junior forward Jamari Traylor led the Jayhawks with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. It was Traylor that got it started, by rattling off KU’s first seven points to start the second half. Although he fouled out with five minutes to play, the fire he started carried through the end of the game. Frank Mason III extended his double-digit reign to 11-straight games with 11 points. The sophomore guard recorded nine of those with 15 minutes to play.
Sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr. also displayed big time composure. All seven of his second-half points came with less than three minutes to play.
The Bears’ familiar faces brought their usual production as the Big 12’s leading rebounder in junior Rico Gathers pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and senior guard Kenny Chery led all players with 25 points. Baylor won the rebound battle, 36-28, but Kansas won the shooting efficiency, 47.1-34.0.
Against Baylor’s zone, four different Jayhawks scored early – but not often. Midway through the first half, Kansas was hovering around the 30 percent shooting mark. Baylor wasn’t fairing much better with its efficiency, but had the three-point game on its side to pull ahead, 15-9. Nevertheless, scoring still didn’t come easy. While the Bears fell into a nearly four-minute scoring drought, the Jayhawks used it.
Greene checked in and went to work. He pulled a move inside the arc for a long jumper and followed it with his first three-pointer since KU’s last road game, giving the Jayhawks a scoring boost. Again, Baylor helped. This time the Bears stayed off the board for nearly six minutes. When Traylor fought for the offensive rebound and the put-back under the basket, Kansas pulled back within two.
Junior forward Rico Gathers hit free throws to close a painful first half that saw both teams shoot below 30 percent. For the second time this season, Kansas failed to break the 20-point mark in a half and Baylor took a 22-18 lead to the break.
Without much attacking the basket, KU didn’t attempt a single free throw in the opening half. Traylor finally changed that when he converted the three-point play as part of his mini-takeover to start the final 20 minutes. Traylor scored KU’s first seven points of the half on 3-of-3 shooting.
More Jayhawks joined the party.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Mason caught fire for a quick five on consecutive makes. Freshman forward Cliff Alexander got the KU fans in the crowd rolling with a dunk and Traylor kept his perfect half in tact with his fourth bucket in four tries. Suddenly, Kansas had its first lead since the game’s initial basket. Alexander kept it rolling with another dunk, tying the Jayhawks’ biggest lead to that point, 36-34. Unfortunately for Kansas, the ring leader would soon be relegated to the bench. Traylor was whistled for foul number four with 11:06 remaining. Moments later, Baylor retook the lead, 38-36.
Kansas held its own. Greene put together another five-point string. When Traylor returned five minutes later, he quickly snagged a rebound and sent it down the court for a Mason layup in transition – and Kansas led again, 45-44. That would be Traylor’s last stitch effort. His fifth foul came on the ensuing possession.
Yet, the Jayhawks had the fire they needed. The visitors rattled off seven-straight baskets, highlighted by seven-straight Selden points. Sweating the final seconds, the clutch steal and ensuing free throws were enough to send Kansas home with the 56-55 win.
Kansas returns home to host Texas Tech on Saturday, Jan. 10, at 2 p.m., on ESPNU. Kansas also hosts Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m., on ESPN2.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (14/17), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (14/49), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (6/6), Jr. F Perry Ellis (14/51), Jr. F Jamari Traylor (5/6)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 22-4
ATTENDANCE: 7,088 (10,284 capacity)
- Made Kansas 12-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the seventh time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
- Marked the Jayhawks’ 24th-consecutive conference-opening victory, dating back to the 1991-92 season.
- Pushed KU’s advantage to 22-4 in the all-time series against the Bears, including 10-2 inside the Ferrell Center.
- Bettered Kansas’ record to 5-2 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse and 2-1 in true road games.
- Improved Self to 337-71 while at Kansas and 544-176 overall.
- Made KU 2,138-824 all-time.
- Kansas was held to 18 points in the opening half, its lowest scoring output in a conference half since the 13-point opening frame at TCU (2/6/13). Those are the only times that the Jayhawks have been held under 20 points in a conference half in the Self era.
- The second half was opposite in almost every way. Eight minutes into the second half, Kansas tied its scoring output from the entire first half. The Jayhawks erased its 27.6 shooting efficiency (8-29) by connecting on eight of their first 10 shots to open the second. In fact, Kansas shot a blistering 72.7 percent (16-22) in the second half, its fourth time this season of shooting better than 60 percent and first time that KU shot better than 70 percent in a half since the second half vs. Oklahoma (2/1/12).
- Kansas’ 72.7 shooting mark in the second half was its best shooting performance since the Jayhawks shot 79.3 percent (23-29) in the first half against Baylor (1/17/11).
- The 56 points in the win are the fewest points in a KU victory since defeating New Orleans 55-49 on Nov. 9, 2000.
- The Jayhawks did not attempt a free throw in the first half, the first such occurrence since the first half of the 2013 NCAA Tournament game against Michigan (3/29/13).
- The Jayhawks snapped Baylor’s 12-game home win streak, which tied the third longest in Ferrell Center history. Losses to Kansas bookended the streak as the Bears’ last home loss was also to the Jayhawks (69-52, 2/4/14).
- Before Wednesday night, Baylor was 71-5 in games in which the Bears led at halftime. Kansas trailed 22-18 at the half, marking the 41st time in the Bill Self era that KU has won when trailing at the break. KU is 4-2 this season after falling behind at halftime.
- Kansas had three different players with multiple blocks (Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander, Perry Ellis) for the second time this season (vs. Rhode Island, 11/27/14).
- KU’s 28 rebounds tied a season low. KU was outrebounded for just the fourth time this season.
- Junior F Jamari Traylor led the charge for KU’s second-half comeback. He hit his first four shots to start the final frame and finished with a game-high 13 points.
- Traylor fouled out with 5:18 left in the game, marking his first early exit since committing five fouls against American (12/29/12).
- Sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr., finished with nine points, seven of which came in the final 2:59 of the game.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III’s 11 points extended his double-digit scoring streak to 11-straight games. KU’s longest double-digit scoring streak a year ago belonged to Andrew Wiggins (eight games) and Mason is now on the hunt to catch Ben McLemore’s streak of 13-straight in 2012-13.
- Mason led all players with five assists and has 28 assists to 10 turnovers over the last five games for a 2.80 assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Mason connected on one three-pointer and has now tallied at least one three in 12 of his 14 outings this season.
- Freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr. swiped a career-high four steals, but the most important one came with :06 remaining as it set up sophomore G Brannen Greene’s game-winning free throws.
- Sophomore G Brannen Greene made his 20th and 21st-consecutive free throws. He is a perfect 17-for-17 from the free throw line this season and 21-for-21 dating back to last year (3/5/14).
- Greene drilled his first three since the Jayhawks’ last road contest (at Temple, 12/22/14). Greene is second on the team with 16 made three-pointers this season.
- Junior F Perry Ellis tied his career-high with three blocks against Baylor, the second time in his career the Wichita native has swatted three blocks (vs. San Diego State, 1/5/14).
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.