The rematch between No. 1 Baylor and No. 3 Kansas lived up to the billing. But it was the biggest man on the floor that had the biggest impact as Kansas won, 64-61, on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
Udoka Azubuike, the 7-foot- senior for the Jayhawks (24-3, 13-1 in Big 12), had an incredible game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 19 rebounds as he played 36 minutes. Azubuike shot 11-of-13 from the floor, most of which were dunks. Meanwhile, he had 14 defensive rebounds and 5 offensive rebounds. Baylor (24-2, 31-1) had no answer for the big man, who managed only 6 points against Baylor when the two teams met in Lawrence on Jan. 11.
Baylor, of course, won that game, kick-starting their rise into the national Top 10 and, eventually, the No. 1 spot in the AP poll, a location the Bears have resided for five weeks.
That should change on Monday, as Kansas will likely ascend to No. 1 for the second time this season.
The game was huge for both teams. The Bears had won 23 straight games and were undefeated in Big 12 action. The Bears were also hosting ESPN College Gameday in front of a sellout crowd at the Ferrell Center and in front of practically every national media outlet in the country. A win for Baylor would have given them a two-game lead for the Big 12 regular-season title with four games remaining.
Kansas, meanwhile, had won 11 games since its loss to Baylor and, with the win, drew even with the Bears at the top of the Big 12.
There were stretches on Saturday in which the Jayhawks had a double-digit lead and appeared in control of the game. But each time the Bears came back to make it a close game. In the first half it was the bench play of forward Matthew Mayer that did the trick, as he scored eight of his 10 points in the first half to help cut Kansas’ lead to three points at the break.
In the second half it was a combination of Jared Butler’s shooting and Baylor’s defense that kept the Bears in the game until the final seconds. Butler ended up scoring 19 points, with the majority of that coming in the second half. The Bears shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and 53.3 percent from the free throw line, and both were factors in not being able to overcome the Jayhawks.
Yet, in the final seconds of a two-possession game, the Bears used their pressure defense to create a turnover and set up MaCio Teague to make it a one-point game.
After that Kansas guard Isaiah Moss made two free throws to make it a 3-point game with less than 10 seconds left. After a Kansas timeout, Baylor came down to the other end and got the ball in Butler’s hands, but his 3 from the top of the key fell short with Kansas guard Devon Dotson in his face.
Dotson had 13 points and 3 assists for Kansas, while Moss had 11 points. The Jayhawks shot 50.9 percent from the floor.
The race for the Big 12 championship is by no means over. But for either Baylor or Kansas to win it outright, they will likely need to win out and hope the other loses at least one more game.
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