Strong finish lifts No. 10 Kansas past Baylor, 70-67
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Redshirt sophomore Malik Newman scored nine points in the final three minutes to help Kansas close the game on an 11-2 run and withstand the Baylor Bears, 70-67, Saturday night inside Allen Fieldhouse. Newman led all scorers with 24 points in the game that saw the Jayhawks come back from a six-point deficit with just over three minutes to play.
The win, Kansas’ fifth straight, moved the Jayhawks to 16-3 on the year and 6-1 in Big 12 play. Baylor fell to 12-7 in its 2017-18 campaign and 2-5 in the league.
After blowing a 13-point second-half lead, Kansas found itself trailing a pesky Baylor squad by six points with just 3:17 remaining in regulation, in danger of dropping its third game in Allen Fieldhouse this year for the first time in 18 seasons. But Newman would not allow that to happen, exploding for nine points in the last three minutes to ignite the valiant Jayhawk comeback.
After Baylor’s Nuni Omot laid in his team-high 13th and 14th points in the game to hand his team its largest lead of the night at 65-59, Newman managed to drive and get to the free throw line, where he converted on both charities to pull Kansas within four points.
On Baylor’s next possession, Manu Lecompte hit a floater, once again giving his team a six-point lead, but Newman again had an answer. The Big 12’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year drove past the Baylor defense and was fouled, but this time he was able to convert the bucket and added a free throw to complete the 3-point play. Newman cut the BU lead to 67-64 and forced BU big man Jo Lual-Acuil’s fifth foul in the process.
The KU defense came up big on the Bears’ next trip down the court. Lecompte was off the mark on a 3-point attempt and Graham was there for his seventh rebound of the night. The senior guard quickly got the ball to the other end, where he handed off to Newman, who penetrated before the Baylor defense could get set and got to the rim for the lay-in, pulling the Jayhawks within a point, 67-66, with 1:49 remaining.
Udoka Azubuike came up with another big defensive play as Baylor came down the floor for its next possession. The 7-0 foot sophomore contested King McClure’s close-range jumper and poked the rebound to midcourt where it was intercepted by Newman, already on a sprint toward the KU bucket. The Jayhawks regained the lead seconds later when Newman laid in the fastbreak bucket, 68-67, as the clock ticked below 60 seconds to play.
KU kept the Bears off the board on its three possessions over the final 60 seconds and added a pair of free throws from Graham to secure the win and complete the late comeback, 70-67.
As has become common practice inside the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawk shooters were in the zone early in the game. Junior Lagerald Vick tallied the first points of the game with a 3-pointer from the right wing to kick off a fast start that saw the Jayhawks hit each of their first seven attempts from the field. Including Vick’s game-opening trey, KU hit four 3-pointers in that early run which saw the Jayhawks jump out to an 18-5 lead over the first five minutes of the contest.
The Bears didn’t let KU run them out of the building though. BU responded with a 10-2 run to cut the Jayhawk lead to five at 20-15 just over midway through the half. But senior guard Sviatoslav Myhkailiuk’s first three of the contest, followed by a Vick jumper and a trey from Graham, helped get KU’s lead back to 11 points by the under-eight minute media timeout.
Despite scoring just one field goal over the final 7:30 of the first half, Kansas was able to keep the Bears at arm’s length with the help of free throw shooting. The Jayhawks, who tallied 14 free throw attempts in the first half, hit 8-of-12 free throws in the last 4:32 to help them maintain a double-digit lead at the intermission, 38-27.
As impressive as the KU shooting was to start the first stanza, it was nearly as bad in the majority of the second half. The Jayhawks connected on just two of their first eight tries of the second half, a pair of Azubuike dunks, allowing Baylor to put a dent in the KU lead.
A fast break dunk from BU’s Mark Vital brought his team as close as it had been since the early seconds of the game, with Kansas hanging on to a 46-43 lead with under 13 minutes to play in regulation.
KU got back out to a seven-point lead following another Azubuike dunk and three-straight free throws from Graham, but more cold shooting from the field from the home team allowed BU to get back into the game. An 11-2 Baylor run saw the visitors claim their first lead of the night, 56-54, following Nuni Omot’s three free throws with 5:31 remaining as KU found itself having converted just four field goals in the first 14:40 of the second stanza.
Graham broke a nearly five minute KU drought without a field goal when he drove through the lane for a lay-up to pull the score level at 56-56 with more than five minutes to play.
A quick 9-3 spurt from the Bears helped the visitors get out to their largest lead of the game at 65-59, but Newman almost single handedly brought his team back into the game, scoring nine points in the last three minutes to spearhead the comeback and lift KU to the 70-67 win.
For the second time in four games, Newman led the Jayhawks in scoring with 24 points, which included a 7-of-7 clip from the free throw line. Graham, who finished the game with a career-high eight rebounds, along with Azubuike, joined their teammate in double figures with 15 points and 14 points, respectively.
The Jayhawks closed the game with only nine field goals over the final 20 minutes of action, but they got to the free throw line a season-high 34 times, and sank 13 charities in the second half.
Kansas will travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on No. 4/6 Oklahoma on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. (Central) on ESPN. Kansas leads the overall series with Oklahoma, 146-66, and has won the last four meetings with the Sooners. Two of those four have been at Lloyd Noble Center, where KU is 52-42 all-time.
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