No. 8 Kansas Dives Past No. 24 Baylor, 78-68

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — He disappeared momentarily, but Wayne Selden, Jr. emerged from behind press row in time to see his dive that saved a loose ball had resulted in a Joel Embiid basket – and KU’s largest lead of the game to that point – en route to No. 8/11 Kansas’ 78-68 win against No. 24/23 Baylor inside Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN Big Monday.

The Big 12 Conference’s top spot in the RPI, backed by five teams in the top-25, presented an opportunity for the Jayhawks to post a milestone evening. With the win, Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12) became the first team since North Carolina’s 1997 squad to knock off four-straight ranked opponents in the regular season. Less monumental, but equally important in the conference race, the win also gave Kansas a 5-0 start in league play for the third-straight season.

Selden’s dive was his highlight as he finished with seven points and two assists, but his hustle clearly symbolized an all-out Jayhawk effort. Kansas stayed aggressive against the Baylor zone, driving the lane and hitting a season-high 90 percent from the free throw line (26-for-29). For the evening, Kansas went 23-for-40 from the floor for its best shooting mark (57.5) since the beginning of Big 12 action.

After a mere two points in the opening frame, sophomore forward Perry Ellis erupted for 16 second-half points to lead the Jayhawks with 18. Freshman guard Andrew Wiggins joined him, chalking up 11 points in the final 20 minutes to finish right behind Ellis with 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Freshman center Joel Embiid rounded out the leaderboard with 12 points, while freshman guard Frank Mason did the dishing. He led the team with six assists and added nine points.

Baylor (13-5, 1-4 Big 12) wasted no time proving its statistical label as the best three-point shooting team in the league. For the first 10 minutes of the game, the Bears only field goals came from behind the arc. While Kansas fired off a 60 percent shooting mark in the first half, Baylor went 8-for-10 from trey territory in the same time frame. Thus, the visitors had no problem keeping up.

Luckily for the Jayhawks, the frantic three-point pace was too tough to maintain in the second stanza. While Baylor still finished with an opponent-season-high 13 three-pointers, KU held the Bears to a 39 percent shooting night.

Kansas is accustomed to getting each opponent’s best or breakout performances, sophomore center Isaiah Austin’s outing followed suit. The 7-1 center entered the game with three made three-pointers all season, but hit four on Monday en route to his 16 points. Fellow three-point specialist, senior guard Brady Heslip, was as lethal as ever. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range in the first half and tied his season-high with six overall. He led all scorers with 19 points.
While Kansas didn’t give up any short-range buckets more than midway through the first half, Baylor’s three-point power put constant pressure on the Jayhawks. KU’s turnovers didn’t help the cause as back-to-back mishaps resulted in two-straight treys from Heslip, prompting a 13-8 Baylor lead and a Kansas timeout. Heslip drilled another after the pause, but Kansas’ shooters were heating up right alongside. The rookie trio of Wiggins, Brannen Greene and Mason each fired off threes to swing the lead back to the home team. 

Back-and-forth scoring soon followed, but the patented ‘fire up the crowd’ alley-oop toss to Embiid put the Jayhawks ahead 31-28 under the four-minute mark. Selden hit his only shot of the half with 49 seconds on the clock, but again Baylor had a three to match. Senior forward Cory Jefferson struck the final blow, BU’s eighth three of the half, to send Kansas to halftime with the slight 37-35 lead.

Scoring was slow to start the second half. A goaltending call accounted for the Bears’ first points, and a Wiggins put-back layup pushed the margin to four, but neither team looked in sync. The lack of Naadir Tharpe presence could have been to blame as the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week had yet to take a shot. With 15:05 remaining, he pulled the trigger for the first time – and became the fifth different Jayhawk to nail a three in the contest.

Ellis picked up the cue, continuing the offensive spark with five-straight points of his own to propel KU to its largest lead of the night, 51-44. Moments later, the mother of all hustle plays came via Selden’s dive into the stands. Flying over press row, Selden somehow found Embiid under the basket for a short jumper. The effort sparked a 7-2 run, capped by Tharpe’s second three of the half, and the Jayhawks found its new largest-lead at 60-46.

Baylor found ways to chip away. Heslip, who had gone scoreless for more than 16 minutes, came back with a pair of threes to trim the Jayhawk lead back to single digits. With exactly two minutes on the clock, Scott Drew called for the timeout as his team looked to erase its 71-62 deficit.

Ellis took care of this one. His seven points in the last two minutes offset a late three-pointer from Baylor Royce O’Neale and Kansas sealed the 78-68 victory.

Kansas will play at TCU on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The Jayhawks will then host No. 16/17 Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.

Game Notes
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (15/15), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (18/18), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (18/18), So. Perry Ellis (18/21), Fr. Joel Embiid (10/10)

SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 20-4

ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (206 consecutive sellouts, dating back to the 2001-02 season)

• Improved KU to 14-4 on the season.
• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in Big 12 play at 5-0.
• Marked the first time in program history that the Jayhawks defeated four-straight top-25 opponents (No. 25 Kansas State, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Baylor). The last school to win as many as four-consecutive regular season games, all against schools ranked in the AP top 25 was when North Carolina did so in February/March 1997.  The Tar Heels beat No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 14 Maryland, No. 12 Clemson, and No. 7 Duke in four-consecutive games.  Since then, there have been 58 schools to play at least four-consecutive regular-season games against AP-ranked opponents with none of them winning all four games.
• Also marked the first time since the 1993-94 season that Kansas has faced four-straight ranked foes. The Jayhawks opened that year in the Preseason NIT and defeated No. 6 Cal, No. 10 Minnesota and No. 18 UMASS, but lost to No. 7 Temple to end the streak at three.
• Pushed KU’s record on Big Monday to 50-16 overall, 27-1 in Allen Fieldhouse and was the 21st-straight Big Monday win at home.
• Made KU 5-0 in conference play for the third-straight season and the seventh time in the Bill Self era.
• Made the Kansas-Baylor series 20-4 in favor of KU, including 18-4 in the Big 12 era and 11-0 in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made KU 707-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 169-9 in the Bill Self era and 8-1 this season.
• Made Bill Self 12-4 all-time against Baylor, 314-63 while at Kansas and 521-168 overall
• Made KU 2,115-816 all-time.

• Kansas went 12-of-20 (60 percent) from the field in the first half, marking the ninth half this season the Jayhawks have been 60 percent or better from the field.
• The Jayhawks hit a season-best 90 percent of its foul shots (26-of-29), which also marked KU’s most-accurate night from the charity stripe since KU connected on 94.7 percent of its free throws (18-of-19) against TCU on February 23, 2013.
• In the second-half versus Oklahoma State and the first half versus Baylor the Jayhawks allowed 16 combined three pointers, the most KU has given up in consecutive 20-minute periods since Iowa State shot in 17 treys (6 in the 1st half, 11 in the second) in KU’s 108-96 overtime win on Feb. 25, 2013.
• Kansas held Baylor to 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field, the third time the Jayhawks have held their opponent to less than 40 percent shooting this season.
• The Jayhawks saw five players connect on at least one three-pointer for the second-consecutive game and the third time this year.
• The Jayhawks were out-rebounded for the third time this year but it was just the first time Kansas has won one of those contests. KU’s 29 rebounds were also a season low.
• Kansas’ 40 field goal attempts marked a season low and the fewest since the Jayhawks attempted 37 against West Virginia on Jan. 28, 2013.
• After Isaiah Austin’s three-pointer at the 15:38 mark of the second half cut the KU lead to 43-32, the Jayhawks went on a 17-4 run over the next 6:46 to extend its lead to 14, its largest of the game.
• Kansas has committed a combined 59 turnovers over its last three contests, marking the most in a three-game span since 2009 when the Jayhawks turned the ball over 61 times against Missouri (27, 2/9), Kansas State (16, 2/14) and Iowa State (18, 2/18).

• Junior F Perry Ellis scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half.
• Senior G Naadir Tharpe notched his fourth game of the season without committing a turnover.
• Freshman G Andrew Wiggins went 10-of-12 from the free throw stripe, both categories were career bests. His 12 attempts also marked the fourth time a Jayhawk has attempted 12 foul shots this season.
• Wiggins’ 17 points marked the 15th game this year he has been in double figures
• Wiggins and Ellis combined for 27 of the Jayhawks’ 33 second-half points.
• Freshman C Joel Embiid tallied his 12th-straight game with at least one block and has notched at least one rejection in 16 of his 18 outings this season.
• Freshman G Frank Mason dished out a team-high six assists, his most in Big 12 play and one shy of his season best.
• Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. saw his 12th-straight game with at least one three pointer.

Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
On the team’s performance:
“I thought we played well when we didn’t turn it over on the offensive end. We had some really good first shot defensive possessions in the second half. In the first half we weren’t turned up enough to get to their players. I’m happy we won; I figured we would play with less energy tonight because we were tired but we made enough plays and made our free throws. It certainly helps when (Andrew) Wiggins and Perry (Ellis) play well because that was the difference in the game.”
On Andrew Wiggins and Perry Ellis’ Performance:
“They were no shows in the first half. They played like they were both capable of playing in the second half and they did a very good job.”
On Frank Mason’s Performance:
“If there was a best player out there for us tonight it was Frank Mason by far. He was terrific except for the one-handed catch on a cross-court pass. Other than that he did a great job.”
On traveling to TCU:
“We all know how well we played at TCU last year. Hopefully our returning guys will remind our new guys of that. It’s good that we are 5-0 and the kids should be happy but in order for us to take our next step we will need to do some things to be tougher and start rebounding the ball like men.”

Kansas Freshman Guard Wayne Selden
On what was going through his mind before he jumped into the stands:
“I just had to get the ball. It was nothing really, no second thoughts about it. After I hit the ground, that’s when I started to think about it. It didn’t hurt too bad at the time, but I am starting to feel it now. I hope I didn’t hurt anybody.”

On if Ellis’ breakaway dunk gave the team any extra motivation:
“That definitely got us going. That gave us a little energy to keep it going. We just kept pushing, kept fighting through. We knew we weren’t playing our best so we just had to grind it out on defense.”

On if halftime was about attacking the zone or playing better perimeter defense:
“We were more focused on defense because that is the key. We needed to find the shooters better because that is what killed us in the first half. We knew once we got the ball moving on offense that we would be fine.”

On if he saw Embiid during his amazing hustle play:
“I just went for the ball and threw it back in there. I didn’t know who would get it. I haven’t jumped into the stands at least since high school.”

On the accomplishment of winning first five conference games against ranked teams:
“We came into the Big 12 season with the mindset that it was a new season. We just focus on the defensive end. We know we are playing better if we don’t play our best and we can still pull out the win. We are just keeping it moving forward.

Kansas Freshman Guard Andrew Wiggins
On if he asked to guard Heslip or was it coaches decision:
“Coach put me on him. Maybe he thought length would help.”

On the toughness of playing so many ranked teams in a row:
“We love the game. Basketball never gets old. That’s what we want to do in the future, that is what we do now. We want to pursue doing it so we want to play good teams all the time.”

On what coach challenged him to do at halftime:
“He told me to be more aggressive. Do what I do best which is attack the rim, get more rebounds and get more involved.”

On what it was like having his family in attendance:
“It is always a joy when your parents are here watching. My mom, my dad and my brother were all here. I think my brother brought some of his teammates with him.”

Kansas Sophomore Forward Perry Ellis
On what he thought of Selden’s amazing hustle play:
“He is making great hustle plays like that all the time. He is constantly going after the ball. That was just a great possession for us as a team.”

On if he anticipated the pass that led to his breakaway dunk:
“I definitely anticipated it. They did it a couple of plays before so I just tried to hurry up and get there as quick as I could to get the deflection.”

On if his he was motivated the second half after only playing eight minutes in the first:
“I definitely was. I wasn’t being that aggressive. Going into halftime, Coach (Self) let us know, Andrew (Wiggins) and I, and we just really tried to pick it up.

On if Baylor’s length and zone-defense affected them during the first half:
“That was the key, they definitely had a lot of length. They are pretty good at running zone, they do it all the time so it was an adjustment for us.”

Baylor head coach Scott Drew
Opening Statement:
“I’m proud of our effort. At the end of the day, losing is tough. We will keep working to get better. That’s what you have to love about the Big 12. Each and every night, you have a chance to go against a great team and a team that is going to help your RPI. It’s the No. 1 ranked conference in the country, so it’s a grind. We are five games into it and we’re on the upward swing, so hopefully we can keep that going.”
On the Kansas second-half run:
“Coming in, we knew that turnovers and getting them out in transition, would hurt. You can’t have 16 turnovers and win games on the road in places like this. You have to be better than that here.”
On his team’s free throw struggles:
“One game you are 21-for-21 and the next you are 10-for-20 and the next you’re 9-for-20, so if you guys figure it out, let me know.”
On if he was pleased to be close at halftime:
“We knew it is a 40-minute game, though. That’s what’s so tough about playing up here, you can’t let them get separation. They get a couple turnovers and, next thing you know, there is separation. Coach Self is obviously a very good coach and it is hard to come back from (being down) double-digits on this court.” 

Baylor Sophomore Center Isaiah Austin
On how they shared the ball:
“Coach (Scott Drew) emphasizes just moving the rock to everybody, moving it side to side. He really emphasizes me and Cory (Jefferson) shooting the ball more so that’s what we did tonight.”

On if they emphasized their bigs to shoot the ball more:
“Coach Drew told us after last game that we passed up too many shots and he knows that we have confidence in making them. That’s what we did tonight, but we fell short.”

Baylor Senior Guard Brady Heslip
On the Bears’ hot three-point shooting:
“We were just setting good screens and guys were making extra passes – we were just playing simple basketball. We were taking what they were giving us and when Isaiah (Austin) and Cory are open they need to shoot it, because they’re great shooters and they showed that tonight and the other night. If guys are going to leave them open they’re going to knock (shots) down.”

On what happened that allowed the game to slip away from them:
“A couple careless plays. When you miss a shot here and there, they’re so good in transition and then they get a couple and-ones and stuff like that, and the fans get so into. It’s hard to play and it’s hard to rebound from that. They got up 10 and then it was tough for us to come back.”

On if he felt that they handled the crowd well:
“I think we handled it pretty well, we definitely could have handled it better, but we’ve just got to stick together. It sucks losing like this, especially three games in a row – none of us are used to it, so it hurts. We know this is a really tough place to play but we’ve just got to stick together and it’s over now.”