It was one of the most-anticipated match ups in college basketball this season when the defending national champion Baylor Bears went to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Jayhawks on Saturday. If not for Coach K coaching his final game at UNC, this would have likely been the most-hyped college basketball game of the day.
For Kansas, they were looking to avenge an embarrassing home loss against Kentucky last week in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. The Jayhawks did get a win at Iowa State mid-week, but this was the first home game since that bad loss last weekend.
Baylor also came in following a loss in the Big 12-SEC Challenge last weekend against Alabama, before bouncing back during the week vs. West Virginia.
Fast forward to Saturday, and despite the hype, this top 10 match up between the two top teams in the Big 12 did not live up to the hype as the Jayhawks ran away with this game in a 83-59 win over Baylor.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
Red-Hot Start for Kansas
It’s like Kansas wanted to get the bad taste out of their mouths from the Kentucky game as quickly as possible on their home court and they did just that. Ironically, Ochai Agbaji got the scoring going for the Jayhawks after missing the Iowa State game due to COVID-19 protocol. The bucket sparked a 10-0 run for Kansas that made it 12-2, with Agbaji being the bookend with a three-pointer as KU took the 10-point lead and never looked back.
The Jayhawks kept extending their first-half lead, leading 27-10 at the 9-minute mark and went into halftime with a dominant 39-21 lead over the Baylor Bears. It was a balanced attack on offense and a defense that was smothering and held Baylor to just 2-15 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes.
Agbaji and Christian Braun led KU with 18 points a piece, Jalen Wilson dropped in 15 and David McCormack just missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
James Akinjo Kept in Check
Akinjo has had an up-and-down couple of weeks and on Saturday, it was a big down. After eight games in a row scoring at least 14 points, Akinjo’s last several games haven’t been consistent with the following numbers in his total points column: 3, 2, 8, 25, and then he was held scoreless on Saturday. And it’s not for lack of attempts. He shot 0-11 from the field, including 0-5 from three-point range.
Akinjo has been dealing with a tailbone injury and hasn’t been the same player in recent weeks, but for Baylor to get itself back to National Championship status, he will need to get back to feeling himself and being the productive player the Bears expect him to be.
The Big 12 Race Goes Through Lawrence
Yes, yes, Baylor is the defending champions. But for this season, Kansas is now 8-1 in Big 12 play, while Baylor fell to 7-3, giving the Jayhawks a 1.5-game lead in the conference standings. Granted in the Big 12, anything can happen on a given night, but KU’s schedule does lighten up a bit moving forward, at least by Big 12 standards: Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, K-State are all on deck before a trip to Waco for the re-match.
On the flip side, Baylor has to play K-State, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, and Oklahoma State.
The edge here is to Kansas, who despite not winning the league last season, have won or tied for the win in 17 of the last 20 Big 12 regular season titles. And they’re favored to make it 18 of 21.