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Somehow, Someway Kansas Defeats Baylor

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Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

So how late was everyone up last night? It's almost midnight here and I am finally starting my recap. I really do not want to be put through two months of this.

Even though the game was low scoring and ugly on the offensive end, both teams scored over a point per possession with the Jayhawks scoring 1.08 compared to just 1.06 for Baylor. Still, in a lot of ways this looked like the Kansas teams of old. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent on twos and allowed Baylor to shoot just 26.3 percent inside the arc. In fact, if not for some insane three point luck on both sides (Kansas shot just 29.4 percent, Baylor 53.3 percent) this game would have been over a long time ago. In fact, it's one of the reasons why, even though the Jayhawks needed some luck and some brain farts by Baylor, I feel better about this team now than I did a day ago. The Jayhawks withstood a horrible game from its should-be best player, withstood horrible three point luck, and still beat a good team in the road.

Kansas also did a great job carving up the Baylor zone in the second half, finishing the game with just a 15.4 percent turnover rate. The Jayhawks got a ton of open looks from three, and a lot of dunks and layups, finishing 15-23 on dunks and layups. They also finished with 1.46 PPP in the second half.

For the second straight game Kansas kept a team's leading scorer in check. Taurean Prince had just 9 points and shot 2-5 on twos and 1-2 on threes. They also did yet another good job forcing turnovers, with a 11.5 steal percentage. The Jayhawks also blocked 18.4 percent of the Baylor shots. It won't go down as a great defensive performance, but given how (mostly) good Baylor's offense has been, the Jayhawks did a pretty good job on that end of the floor tonight. If Baylor had shot its season average beyond the arc (even counting this game), they would have scored just .94 points per possession.

The worst part of the night was Kansas's effort on the glass. Kansas rebounded just 32.1 percent of its misses, and allowed Baylor to rebound an obscene 47.2 percent of its misses. That alone could have, and probably should have, cost the Jayhawks the win. Baylor is a very good rebounding team, but there's no reason for a guy like Rico Gathers to not have a guy boxing him out.

Before we get to the player recaps, a couple brief notes about the strategy in the end of the game (and I can expound on it in a standalone post if the demand is there): First, Kansas's intentional foul: I am generally a proponent of fouling up three late, though I would have been fine with them not doing so here for a couple reasons: First, this team is definitely prone to some brain farts and I had visions of someone fouling a Baylor shooter in the act of shooting a three, but probably more importantly Baylor was rebounding almost half its misses, so I had even more visions of Baylor missing the second free throw and then drilling a three for the win. Still, I was in favor of fouling because of how hot the Bears were beyond the arc and because of the likelihood that even if Baylor intentionally missed the second free throw they probably would have made a two off the rebound, which would have tied the game. So Kansas likely wasn't going to lose and obviously a lot more things needed to go wrong for Baylor to even tie. So, while i think it was more of a decision than it normally is, I'd call it a good one.

Next, to Baylor's decision to make the second free throw. With how well the Bears were rebounding, I probably would have had them miss this free throw. As we saw, time just gets too short when you make the second, then have to foul, then hope Kansas misses, and then get a good shot. Not guarding the inbounds pass was a pretty dumb decision because the Jayhawks got to basically get it in for free, and Baylor probably got a bit unlucky by the fact that Mason missed his second (edit: whoops. Mason missed the front end. This is the last recap I write after midnight), causing the Bears to need to bring it the length of the floor with the clock running. So, with the end game scenario plus Kansas's plan against the zone, especially the second half adjustments, Kansas got lucky a couple times, but Bill Self put on a clinic and Scott Drew attended.

  • Frank Mason didn't even have one of his best games of the year and still finished 4-7 on twos and had 5 assists to just 1 turnover. He struggled at times defensively, but picked his spots well on the attack, and took care of the ball extremely well. Just hang the guy's damn jersey in the rafters already.
  • On the other hand, Perry Ellis has had a devil of a time lately. He got multiple shots blocked, and one of his only two field goals was an open dump off dunk. Ellis was also 1-6 on jumpers. He had just 3 rebounds, struggled defensively both on and off the ball, and turned it over twice. He also had a chance to rebound a missed Baylor layup at the end of the game and put Kansas (and just as importantly, my heart) out of its misery in having to deal with the final 6 seconds or so of that game, but the ball slipped out of his hands after some contact. His saving grace was three blocked shots but he needs to get a lot better in a hurry.
  • Wayne Selden disappeared for big stretches of this one, but he hit some big shots late, and finished 3-5 on twos and 1-4 on threes. Selden also had 4 assists and just 1 turnover, though he two seemed to struggle a bit defensively. Still, Selden hit a couple jumpers in big spots and didn't do anything too dumb, so there's something to be said for that.
  • Jamari Traylor was potentially KU's best player in this one, going 6-7 from the field, grabbing 5 rebounds, dishing 2 assists, and blocking 2 shots. Traylor consistently broke down the zone and, even though he fouled out, provided energy on defense.
  • Kelly Oubre didn't shoot the ball well, just 1-7 from the field, but had 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, and had two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. I think his arms are long enough to where he can write this post from Waco.
  • Brannen Greene provided a spark off the bench, making both twos and 2-3 threes, and grabbed 13 rebounds. He struggled defensively and had a couple turnovers, but his shooting was a much needed spark.
  • Cliff Alexander was 2-3 and had just one rebound. He did have 4 assists and 2 blocks, but got consistently bullied by Rico Gathers down low.
  • I am done complaining about Bill Self's lineup choices (no I'm not), especially with how good Mason has been this year and how well Traylor played tonight, but I think Landen Lucas would have been much needed in this one. He got 2 rebounds in just 4 minutes, and immediately after he came in Kansas generated an open three, and Lucas forced a turnover which led to a layup on the other end. I also think that if Perry Ellis were able to play next to someone a bit bigger for long stretches of time he might be able to benefit from that.