Rushed Reactions: Kansas 70, Baylor 66Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2016
Three key takeaways.
- Kansas extends its run of success against Baylor. Kansas has had Baylor’s number in recent years, having won eight of the last nine meetings heading into Friday night’s Big 12 semifinal. Although they had to withstand a frantic last-minute rally, the Jayhawks extended their domination of the Bears with a 70-66 win. Bill Self’s offense didn’t execute at the level to which it has gotten accustomed, but they proved once again who the kings of the Big 12 are.
- Baylor fails to cash in on opportunities. Bill Self, who espouses the importance of toughness at every opportunity, wasn’t pleased with his team’s rebounding effort in its last meeting with the Bears. Self clearly got through to his team, as Baylor, which entered Friday’s contest with the nation’s third-best offensive rebounding rate, pulled down just two of its 14 misses in the first half and finished with a season-worst 20.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. The Bears also shot themselves in the foot by failing to capitalize at the free throw line (56%), reducing their margin for error in the other facets of the game. By failing to build on Thursday’s inspired offensive effort against Texas, Baylor showed that scoring will remain a huge question mark for them entering the NCAA Tournament.
- Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason continue to give Kansas a two-headed monster at the point. Self said earlier this week that he would continue to approach recruiting with the goal of playing two point guards at the same time, and the play of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham has been a big reason behind that attitude. Though the Jayhawks scored just 21 first-half points, Graham was seemingly everywhere on the floor. The Jayhawks made only nine baskets before halftime, but the junior scored or assisted on seven of those and finished the game with a versatile stat line of 14 points, eight assists and five steals. While Mason wasn’t Kansas’ best player Friday night, he continued to be an asset, finishing with nine points and hauling in six rebounds despite a huge disparity in size. Having to account for Mason and Graham’s respective playmaking abilities will be one of the biggest challenges for any team facing Kansas from here on out.
Star Of The Game: Devonte’ Graham. Without Graham’s steady play, Baylor’s furious second-half run may have been enough to send the Jayhawks home without the Big 12 Tournament title for the third straight year. He was the only Kansas player to have a solid first half, and though he finished with four turnovers, his positive contributions far outweighed his miscues.
Quotable: “I wanted to leave them all in there, in all honesty, because I wanted them to feel some pressure. It looks a little easier from the sidelines. I can do this and I can do better and all these things. But they had a chance to perform, when all honesty Baylor wasn’t really coming at us real hard. We just helped them so much. And they had a chance to perform. I know it’s embarrassing to them when you have to put your starters back in, but they’ll remember that hopefully.” – Bill Self, on the decision to re-insert his starting lineup after Baylor cut a 16-point deficit to three late in the game.
Sights and Sounds: After struggling to generate offense during the first 20 minutes of the game, the Jayhawks started to find their way in the second half with an early 22-10 run. With Kansas gaining control, junior Wayne Selden tore the roof off the Sprint Center with one of the best dunks of the entire college basketball season. Elevating over Baylor wing Ish Wainright, who, unfortunately for the purposes of this play, hails from Kansas City, Selden transported the Jayhawk-heavy crowd (and College Basketball Twitter) into a state of pandemonium. Selden has had another inconsistent season, but with this explosion of force, he showed that a little up-and-down play can be a good thing too (Sorry.)
What’s Next: Kansas awaits the winner of tonight’s second semifinal between West Virginia and Oklahoma. With the #1 overall NCAA Tournament seed likely locked up regardless of Saturday’s outcome, it will be interesting to see how liberally Self uses his bench after it almost blew a late 16-point lead on Friday. Meanwhile, another failed attempt to cash in on the change for a premium RPI win could haunt Baylor on Selection Sunday.