Baylor battles Kansas in Big 12 showdown
Lawrence, KS (Sports Network) - A pair of undefeated Big 12 Conference teams will square off at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night when the Kansas Jayhawks play host to the Baylor Bears.
Baylor put together a stellar showing during its non-conference schedule by winning eight of 12 matchups, but it has really stepped it up since Big 12 play got underway as the team has won its first three league bouts, dismissing Texas (86-79 in OT), Texas Tech (82-48) and most recently, TCU on Saturday (51-40).
Kansas has been nothing short of spectacular this season, as it sits with a 14-1 record for the third time in the last four campaigns, and for the fifth time in head coach Bill Self's 10-year tenure. The Jayhawks' only blemish came in a Nov. 13 loss to Michigan State (67-64), but since then they have ripped off 13 wins in a row, culminating in a 60-46 road victory over Texas Tech on Saturday.
Kansas has dominated the 21 previous meetings between these two programs, going 18-3. Baylor won the latest matchup, 81-72, in the 2012 Big 12 Conference Tournament championship game, but the Jayhawks have never lost to the Bears in Lawrence.
Baylor's offensive attack struggled in its latest game, as it shot 40.7 percent from the field, including 3-of-12 from 3-point range en route to its lowest point total of the season, but luckily it played very well at the defensive end of the court in the win, as its 40 points allowed to TCU were the fewest it's ever given up in a Big 12 game. The Bears were able to generate enough offense to earn the victory thanks to solid performances from Cory Jefferson (15 points), Pierre Jackson (11 points, six assists), and Isaiah Austin (10 points, eight rebounds). Saturday's poor offensive effort was an anomaly for the Bears, as they rank second in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (.472) and third in scoring (76.8 ppg). Jackson is making his case for conference player of the year, as not only does he lead the league in scoring (19.2 ppg), but he ranks in the top-five in assists (6.3 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). While Jackson has done the bulk of his damage from the outside, Austin (14.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Jefferson (14.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg) have been outstanding complements in the frontcourt with nearly identical stat lines. Austin can also drain an outside shot (13-of-36 from 3-point range), and Jefferson ranks second in the league in blocked shots (2.3 per contest).
Kansas got out to a slow start against Texas Tech, as it led by just two points at intermission, but it was able to pull away for the 14-point win by outshooting the Red Raiders from the floor, .463 to .354, and making 19-of-26 from the free-throw line. Kevin Young was nearly perfect on the night, shooting 7-of-9 from the floor for 14 points. Jeff Withey and Travis Releford netted 12 points apiece, while Ben McLemore chipped in 10 points in the triumph. The Jayhawks are one of the few teams in the conference that scores more than Baylor on a nightly basis at 77.8 ppg. Pair that with an outstanding scoring defense (60.3 ppg) and they boast the league's top scoring margin of plus-17.5. McLemore has been highly efficiency this season, making good on 50 percent of his field goal attempts (including 43.1 percent from beyond the arc) and 87.5 percent of his free throw attempts on his way to 16.4 ppg. The redshirt freshman adds 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg and nearly a block per game as well. Withey is one of the best big men in the nation, tallying 13.4 ppg and 8.3 rpg while ranking second in the nation in blocked shots (4.8 bpg). Releford adds 13.2 ppg to the mix, while Elijah Johnson pitches in 9.8 ppg and 5.5 apg.
01/14 10:37:02 ET