Kansas Continues to Title Game, Beats Baylor, 62-52
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amongst a defensive stronghold, Wayne Selden, Jr., made sure the offense didn’t get left out. The sophomore guard put on his best postseason performance, leading the Jayhawks with 20 points to send No. 9/10 Kansas past No. 16/16 Baylor, 62-52, in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship semifinals Friday evening inside Sprint Center.
Seeded in the top spot, Kansas (26-7) matched up against a fourth-seeded Baylor (24-9) squad that had never lost to the Jayhawks in March – until Friday. The Jayhawks now advance to their 11th Big 12 Championship title game and will square off against the winner of Oklahoma vs. Iowa State, Saturday at 5 p.m. on ESPN.
Junior forward Perry Ellis returned to the starting
lineup for 11 points and six rebounds.Two games without All-Big 12 First Team junior Perry Ellis was plenty. KU’s leading scorer returned to the starting lineup on Friday and followed Selden with 11 points, making them the only Jayhawks in double-figures. Sophomore guard Frank Mason III led the floor with four assists and was one of four Jayhawks to tally two steals.
The Jayhawk defense made it possible for Selden and Ellis to carry the offensive load. KU held Baylor to a season-low 52 points and forced the Big 12’s best three-point shooting team to make just 18.2 percent (4-22) of its attempts. Aside from undefeated Kentucky, Baylor had been the only other team in the country to hold at least a six-point lead in every game this year. The Jayhawks toppled that one, allowing the Bears a two-point lead in the first half and nothing more.
Baylor’s Rico Gathers recorded his Big 12-best 17th double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Senior point guard Kenny Chery tied Selden for the game-high with his 20 points, while skewing Baylor’s three-point numbers as he accounted for all four threes (4-of-7). The rest of his team went 0-for-15. Baylor, who outdid KU on the glass in both of their previous meetings, was outrebounded by Kansas on Friday, 39-35. Together, the two teams certainly made the case for a defensive battle as they combined for 35 turnovers and 22 steals. Baylor’s 13 steals were the most by a Kansas opponent this season.
Kansas got the three-point monkey off its back early. Freshman guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Ellis sank back-to-back threes for KU’s first points of the game. After Mason’s lob to Selden, Kansas was plagued with six-straight misses that stalled its scoring for more than six minutes. Turnovers were even more costly, robbing the Jayhawks of chances to break the drought. Yet, Kansas’ defense held Baylor to nearly identical numbers. When sophomore forward Landen Lucas snapped the scoreless streak with 10 minutes to play in the half, KU still found itself ahead, 10-7.
A steady diet of defense, turnovers and missed shots would be the story for most of the first half, causing repeated stalemates on the scoreboard. The teams stayed locked at 16-16 under the five-minute mark, and even then it was a single free throw from Chery that broke it up.
Finally, some action. With 2:40 to play, Oubre made good on both free throws that resulted from his baseline drive to the basket. A pull-up jumper in the lane from freshman guard Devonte’ Graham opened a five-point lead, a gap that seemed insurmountable given the scoring woes on both sides. A flurry of offensive rebounds and a Hunter Mickelson steal led to another jumper from Graham – exactly the shot in the arm KU needed. Ellis turned his own offensive board into a bucket to send Kansas to halftime with its largest lead of the game, 26-18.
Baylor missed eight-straight shots to end the first half, which naturally gave the Bears more than a little motivation to start the second period. But it was Kansas, again, that struck first. Mason swiped an early steal and sent it up to Selden for a layup to push KU’s lead to double-figures. Ellis and Oubre piled on, surging the Kansas lead to 32-18. The Jayhawks would open up a 35-20 margin before the Bears came roaring back.
In less than two minutes, four different BU scorers got to the rim to fire off an 8-0 run and pull themselves right back in it. A breakaway dunk from Taurean Prince forced head coach Bill Self’s hand. He called for the timeout with the Jayhawk lead narrowed to 35-28.
Sophomore guard Brannen Greene had missed 15-straight threes over his last five games. But with the Bears now within six and an open look in the corner, the shooter went for it.
Greene’s three put Kansas up nine with 12:29 on the clock. The Bears weren’t done. Chery nailed his second trey of the game to bring his team within four. Not about to give it away, Kansas pressed on. Ellis, Selden and Mason responded, pulling together for a 12-1 run to get the Jayhawks back out by double-figures.
Six of those came from Selden. The sophomore guard carried the weight down the stretch, making winning plays whether or not they appeared on the scoreboard. His dive to save a loose ball, evolved into a KU timeout and evolved again into a Mason layup. With five minutes to play, Kansas’ 15-point lead was restored, 51-36.
Gathers and Chery still clawed, rattling off eight-straight points to narrow their deficit to 10 points, but with less than 20 seconds to play, their efforts would go unrewarded. Selden pushed his total to 20 points with his last free throws of the game, sending Kansas to the title game, 62-52.
Kansas will play in the finals of the 2015 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship, March 14, at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Jayhawks will meet the winner of Iowa State/Oklahoma, who tipped off at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday. Game time is set for Saturday at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Kansas has won 13 conference postseason tournament titles, including nine in the Big 12.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (33/36), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (33/68), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (24/24), So. F Landen Lucas (11/11), Jr. F Perry Ellis (31/68)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 24-4
ATTENDANCE: Sold-out (18,972 capacity)
- Made Kansas 26-7 on the season, giving the Jayhawks 26 wins for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
- Improved KU to 11-7 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors).
- Jumped the Jayhawks’ record in the Big 12 Championship to 19-16 in conference tournament semifinal games (11-6 in the Big 12 era).
- Advanced Kansas to the conference tourney finals for the 11th time in Big 12 history and 19th time overall.
- Bettered KU’s record in 68-25 in conference tournament play and 38-9 in the Big 12 Championship.
- Extended Kansas’ success in Sprint Center to 27-5 all-time and 3-0 this season.
- Moved Self to 351-76 while at Kansas, 33-10 in conference tournament action (24-5 while at KU in the Big 12 Championship) and 558-181 overall.
- Made KU 2,152-829 all-time.
- Kansas is now 10-4 against Associated Press ranked opponents this season, that marks the most wins for the Jayhawks against top-25 teams in a single season. That passes the previous record of nine during the 1996-97 season.
- Baylor’s 52 points were a season-low, tying the fewest points the Bears have scored since posting the same total twice last season (vs. Kansas, 2/4/14; vs. Wisconsin, 3/27).
- A free throw from BU’s Kenny Chery gave the Bears a 17-16 lead in the first half – their last lead of the game. KU finished the first half and started the second on a 16-1 run.
- Aside from undefeated Kentucky, Baylor is the only other team in the country to lead by at least six points in every game this season, until Friday. BU’s 16-14 lead with 7:11 to play in the first half was its biggest lead of the game.
- Baylor is one of only four teams to hold all of its opponents under 75 points this season and did so again on Friday. However, Kansas is now 9-0 this season when holding teams to less than 60 points (143-1 in the Bill Self era).
- Prior to Friday, the Bears had trailed only four times at halftime all year – even in both regular-season losses to Kansas. The Jayhawks’ 26-18 lead at the break was Baylor’s second-biggest halftime deficit of the season (30-21 at Oklahoma State, 1/27).
- Kansas erased the three-point question early. After going without a three in the quarterfinals, freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., hit KU’s first three-pointer of the game just 20 seconds in. That’s the ninth time this season that KU scored its first points from behind the arc. A minute later, junior F Perry Ellis sank the next three. For the game, KU was 3-for-12 from three-point range.
- After starting the game 3-for-3, the Jayhawks suffered a brutal scoring drought. They didn’t score for six minutes, 16 seconds and missed six-straight shots.
- Baylor’s drought was worse. Kansas forced the Bears to finish the first half on a rough 0-for-8 shooting stretch. For the half, Baylor was 5-for-25 for a season-low 18 points in a half.
- The Bears did not record a field goal from the 7:10 mark of the first half to the 17:01 mark of the second – an 0-for-14 span.
- The Jayhawks held the Bears to 5-of-25 shooting in the first half, marking the first time KU held an opponent to 20 percent shooting in a half since Howard shot 20 percent (5-for-25, 12/29/11). Towson came close, shooting 20.7 percent (6-for-29) in the first half on Nov. 22, 2013.
- KU is now 19-2 when outrebounding the opponent in 2014-15.
- The Jayhawks are now 19-1 when leading at halftime in 2014-15.
- Junior F Perry Ellis returned to the starting lineup after the only two-game hiatus of his career. Ellis had played in 102-consecutive games before a sprained knee kept him out against Oklahoma (3/7) and TCU (3/12).
- Ellis was a welcome sight, especially since he shines in the Big 12 Championship. Including his 11 points and six rebounds against Baylor, he now averages 15.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in six Big 12 tourney games.
- Ellis inched closer to Wayne Hightower (1,128) for 40th on KU’s all-time career scoring list. With his 11 on Saturday, Ellis has 1,124 for his career.
- Sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr., scored a team-high 20 points, his personal-best in postseason play. His 7-for-9 (77.8 percent) was his career-high in efficiency. Selden added a career-high eight rebounds to his night.
- That’s the third time this year that Selden has crossed the 20-point mark and sixth time in his career.
- Redshirt junior F Hunter Mickelson recorded two blocks on Friday. He is the only Jayhawk with blocks in each of the last five games. He is averaging 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in that span.
- Sophomore G Brannen Greene had missed 15-straight threes over the last five games, including the Baylor contest, but his three-pointer in the second half stopped a 10-1 Baylor run and put the Jayhawks up 39-30 with 12:29 to play.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III led the Jayhawks with four assists, his most since dishing five dimes against TCU (2/21).
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