Electric Second Half Lifts No. 1 Kansas Past No. 22 Baylor, 70-66
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – No. 1 Kansas used an electric second half to run past No. 22 Baylor, 70-66, in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship on Friday night at Sprint Center.
Kansas (29-4) extends its winning streak to 13 games while advancing to the finals of the event for the 12th time. Senior All-American Perry Ellis poured in 20 points for the fourth consecutive game, as sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham scored 14 points with eight assists and four steals.
The Jayhawks scored a season-low 21 points in the first half, but turned up the heat with 49 points on 58 percent shooting in the second half to return to the form that clinched the program’s 12th-straight Big 12 regular-season title.
Baylor (22-11) cut KU’s late 16-point lead to three points in the final moments of the game before the Jayhawks clinched the victory. Al Freeman led the Bears with 14 points and six rebounds.
Kansas strung together a handful of exciting moments in the first half, but overall struggled with turnovers and shooting to open the game. After making six of its first 10 shots, Kansas closed the first half 3-for-16 from the field while turning the ball over nine times.
Graham and junior guard Frank Mason III teamed up to spark an early 6-0 run and 9-5 lead. Graham got a hold of an offensive rebound on KU’s first possession and quickly passed it to Mason waiting beyond the arc, who drained his for KU’s first basket of the game. Graham later ignited the Jayhawks’ transition offense with a steal on the defensive end and passing it Mason for an easy fast-break layup.
Kansas went on to finish the game with 14 points in transition to Baylor’s five fast-break points.
One of KU’s few highlights in first half was Wayne Selden Jr., finding an opening in the Baylor defense for a dunk – a foretaste of Selden’s earth-shaking dunk later in the game.
Graham connected with Ellis for an alley-oop on back-to-back possessions to give Kansas a 13-9 lead at the 13:49 mark. But Kansas would not score again until the 8:10 mark when Graham drained a 3-pointer to break a 13-13 tie. Selden threw up a lob for Graham in transition, which gave Kansas an 18-13 lead.
Baylor’s Jake Lindsey banked in a 3-point desperation shot at the buzzer to give the Bears a 23-21 halftime lead. It was Lindsey’s only attempted shot in the first half and just his fourth made 3-point field goal during his freshman season.
KU’s 21-point scoring output in the first half marked the fewest amount of points in a half this season from the Jayhawks.
Kansas bounced back from a stagnant offensive performance in the first half by scoring 10 points in the first three minutes of the second half. Mason set the tone for the quick bounce-back with a steal on Baylor’s first possession which turned into a fast-break layup for the Jayhawks’ steady guard.
Ellis took it from there. The senior forward returned to All-American form by making 4-of-4 free throws and two field goals during KU’s early second-half run, which gave the Jayhawks a 31-25 lead. Ellis went on to score 14 of his 20 total points in the second half.
A pair of overpowering dunks seemingly put Kansas in the driver’s seat on the way to its 13th consecutive win.
Waiting on the other end of Graham’s seventh assist of the day was Carlton Bragg Jr., who completed a half-court alley-oop to put Kansas up by 10 points, 43-33.
Later, Selden elevated over Baylor’s Ishmail Wainright for a tomahawk dunk that electrified Jayhawk fans in Sprint Center (his uncle in particular, who became an immediate social media sensation for his exuberant reaction that was aired on the ESPN2 telecast). Wainright committed his fifth foul on the play, while Selden completed the 3-point play at the free throw line to give KU a 46-33 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining.
A pair of free throws by Ellis put him at the 20-point threshold for the fourth consecutive game. Bragg subbed in for Ellis in the closing moments of the game and once again connected with Graham for an alley-oop down the stretch. Bragg ended up tying his season high of 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in just 10 minutes of action.
Baylor cut KU’s largest lead of the game (16 points) down to three in under two minutes to force the Jayhawks’ stable of starters to return to the floor and finish off the victory.
The Jayhawks will face No. 2 seed West Virginia in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship final on Saturday at 5 p.m. Central time on ESPN.
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) March 12, 2016
STARTERS (Season Starts / Career Starts)
Jr. G Frank Mason III (33/72), So. G Devonte’ Graham (31/31), Jr. G Wayne Selden Jr. (32/103), Sr. F Perry Ellis (33/104), Jr. F Landen Lucas (14/28)… 14th time this combination has started a game (13-1 record).
SERIES INFO: Kansasleads 27-4… Kansas has won eight straight in the series and holds a 13-2 advantage in the last 15 meetings… Two of Baylor’s four all-time wins against Kansas have come in the Big 12 Championship… Kansas also met Baylor in last season’s Big 12 Championship semifinals, defeating the Bears 62-52… KU has been the No. 1 seed in all four Big 12 Championship meetings against Baylor… Kansas head coach Bill Self is 19-4 all-time against Baylor, including a 19-3 mark while at Kansas… Baylor’s Scott Drew is 3-19 versus Kansas.
ATTENDANCE: TBA (Sprint Center)
ABOUT THE WIN…
Friday’s win makes Kansas 29-4, extending its winning streak to 13 games… Makes KU 12-4 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (7-3 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors)… Makes Kansas 12-6 in Big 12 Championship semifinal games and 20-16 in all-time league tournament semifinals… Advances KU to the conference tourney championship for the 12th time in Big 12 history and 20th time overall… Improves Kansas to 70-26 in league tournament play, 40-10 at the Big 12 Championship… Makes Kansas 30-6 all-time in Sprint Center, including 3-0 this season… Gives Kansas its eighth-straight win against Baylor, making the series 27-4 in favor of the Jayhawks… Makes Bill Self 381-82 while at Kansas, 588-187 all-time and 35-11 in conference tournament play, 26-6 while at Kansas in the Big 12 Championship… Makes Kansas 2,182-835 all-time.
• Kansas improves to 10-3 against nationally-ranked opponents this season, including 3-0 versus top-10 foes. In the Bill Self era, Kansas is 74-37 against ranked opponents and have had a winning record against ranked foes each of the last 11 seasons.
• Baylor entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in assists per game (18.1 apg), but dished out just nine dimes against the Jayhawks. KU recorded 16 assists, led by Devonte’ Graham’s eight.
• Kansas improves to 7-2 when trailing at halftime. It is just the second time in the last 12 games that Kansas has trailed at halftime.
• Kansas recorded a season-high 12 steals. KU’s previous high of 11 occurred three times, including the last time in the Sprint Center against Oregon State (Dec. 12).
• KU’s 21 first-half points are the fewest points in a half by the Jayhawks since scoring 18 in the first half against Baylor on Jan. 7, 2015.
• The Jayhawks combined for eight dunks, led by Wayne Selden Jr.’s three. Carlton Bragg Jr. and Perry Ellis each dunked twice, while Devonte’ Graham flushed it once.
• KU reaches 40 wins in the history of the Big 12 Championship. The Jayhawks are 40-10 (80.0 percent) in the event, while Oklahoma State (23-18) and Texas (23-20) are second with 23 wins each.
• The Big 12 semifinals marked KU’s second game on a Friday this season, improving to 2-0 and 43-7 in the Bill Self era on Friday.
• Kansas has won six of its nine Big 12 titles as the No. 1 seed (1997, 1998, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013) entering Saturday’s contest.
Senior F Perry Ellis
• Scored 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 shooting at the free throw line in 25 minutes.
• Now has four consecutive 20-point scoring efforts – 20 at Texas (Feb. 29), 22 vs. Iowa State (March 5), 21 vs. K-State (March 10), and 20 vs. Baylor (March 11).
• 16 of his 20 points came in the second half.
• Passed Kevin Pritchard (1987-90; 1,692) for 11th-place on KU’s career scoring list. Ellis now has 1,708 career points.
Junior G Frank Mason III
• Scored nine points with six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.
• Reached 150 assists in a season for the first time in his three-year collegiate career (152).
Sophomore G Devonte’ Graham
• Scored 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting with eight assists and four steals.
• Tied his career high in assists with eight. Also had eight dimes against Northern Colorado in the season open on Nov. 13.
Junior G Wayne Selden Jr.
• Scored 11 points, including three dunks, with four assists in 31 minutes.
• Only Jayhawk on the current roster to start all Big 12 Championship games he has played in (seven).
Freshman F Carlton Bragg Jr.
• Scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting from off the bench in just 10 minutes of action.
• Two of his three double-figure scoring efforts this season have come in the last two games of Big 12 Championship action.
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