It’s been 33 years since the Kansas Jayhawks lost consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse, and history doesn’t stop just because the eighth-ranked team in the country comes to town.
The No. 10 Jayhawks outran, overpowered and downright outplayed the Baylor Bears on Saturday afternoon, cruising to an 83-59 victory to maintain their chokehold on first place in the Big 12 standings.
That marks an important win for the conference race, for the program’s NCAA tournament resume and for KU’s momentum just one week after getting embarrassed at home by Kentucky.
“We had a great week,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “People make a lot about last Saturday, which is fine, but it’s not near as important as these last two games.”
It was nearly wire-to-wire domination from Kansas, which fell down 2-0 to Baylor before ripping off a 23-5 run to take control, which it never gave back. The Jayahwks took an 18-point lead into halftime, shooting nearly 46% from the field, and actually improved on that in the second half.
KU shot 60% from the field after halftime despite only going 2-of-9 on three pointers in the second 20 minutes.
Junior guard Christian Braun and senior guard Ochai Agbaji were the game’s leading scorers, each pouring in 18 points. They also came one rebound shy of each having a double-double in the win; Braun grabbed 10 boards while Agbaji had nine.
The rebounding advantage was one of the most significant factors in the victory for Kansas, earning a +9 margin in that statistic against one of the better rebounding teams in the country.
“We did a really good job coming out today with more energy than we had last Saturday,” Braun said.
As for Agbaji, Saturday marked his return from a one-game absence due to Covid-19 protocols, which forced him to miss the Jayhawks’ win Tuesday night at Iowa State. Agbaji said he didn’t feel any rust in his return, however.
“I felt good out there, I really didn’t feel like I took a step back or anything,” Agbaji said.
Self concurred, adding that the top candidate for Big 12 player of the year makes a major impact just by being on the floor.
“I don’t think that he probably had his best game, but his presence gives everybody else confidence,” Self said.
For as impressive as the KU offense was, shooting 52% from the floor for the day, it was the defense that set the tone for the blowout. The Jayhawks held the Bears to just 30% shooting for the game and under 26% for the first half.
The defense also turned into offense for Kansas, with the Jayhawks scoring 17 fast break points. That’s more than double their average in Big 12 play.
Sophomore guards Joseph Yesefu and Dajuan Harris both received press after the game for their defensive tenacity, both from their teammates and from Self.
“Juan and Joe deserve a lot of credit for the defense today,” Braun said.
Self went into detail about how they limited some of Baylor’s best players, James Akinjo and Adam Flagler.
“They made [Akinjo] work, so that was good,” Self said. “And the job we did on Flagler the first half was also good … I thought our defense was probably as good as it’s been all year.”
Akinjo was held scoreless for just the second time in 87 career games. Flagler led Baylor with 16 points on Saturday.
For Baylor, this loss was unfamiliar territory, something that its coach, Scott Drew, referred to as the game “snowballing” on the Bears.
“Well, that’s not how we envisioned the day,” Drew said, later adding: “Credit to coach Self and credit to Kansas for coming out and playing faster and tougher.”
KU now owns a 1.5-game lead over Baylor and Texas Tech in the Big 12 standings. But, while Self said he thinks the Jayhawks have done as well as they likely could have by this point, he said there’s a lot of time left for the standings to change.
“This deal is a long ways from being over,” Self said.
The Jayhawks have a quick turnaround before their next game, hitting the road for a Big Monday game against the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Texas pickedup a blowout win of its own on Saturday, beating Iowa State 63-41. That game is set for 8:00 Monday night.