Twenty-three days after Kansas handed Baylor their first loss of the season, Bill Self’s team entered the Ferrell Center in Waco, TX on Wednesday night and did it again.
After falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes, the Jayhawks, behind 25 points from center Jeff Withey and 19 from guard Tyshawn Taylor, were in control by the 16-minute mark of the second half, winning by a final of 68-54.
It didn’t start as a game that looked on its way to a 14-point Kansas win. In fact, questions about Baylor’s defense looked to be answered, to some extent.
Working mostly in the zone, the Bears denied Thomas Robinson the basketball and collapsed on him when he found space in the paint. He had just four points before sitting for the final four and a half minutes of the first half.
But it wasn’t the Player of the Year candidate Robinson that turned out to be the biggest problem on the block for Baylor. It was Withey, the 7-footer who posted a double-double in the first meeting of these teams, who made the difference.
With all the attention on Robinson, Withey’s ability to find openings on the interior deteriorated the Baylor defense and negated much of the athleticism that typically makes the Bears so effective.
As Rob Dauster has pointed out, it’s not an isolated problem. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, a team effort from BYU, and Robinson, in their first matchup, have all had big nights against Baylor.
In addition to those defensive problems, offensive problems from their stars buried them against Kansas.
Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III, two future lottery picks playing in front of scouts from 17 NBA teams, were both rendered ineffective, shooting a combined 2-of-12 from the floor and finishing with eight points between them.
Jones III has had some difficulties against teams that can pressure him on the interior. Against No. 14 Mississippi State, he had eight points. Against West Virginia he had four points on 2-of-9 shooting. Against No. 5 Missouri, he had eight points.
Baylor was 2-1 in those games, winning by a combined margin of four points.
So what does it mean? We talked about North Carolina’s inclusion in the “elite teams” in the nation and it is now clear: Baylor is not in that group. Top 10 team? Yes. But not belonging in the same tier as Kentucky, Syracuse, UNC, and a few others.
Scott Drew’s team is now 0-3 against Top 10 teams, which makes it difficult to say with confidence that the Bears have the firepower to make it to the Final Four in New Orleans.
A shaky defense, which is many times reluctant to break from the zone, paired with an absent Perry Jones III in some big spots, and Kansas and Missouri look like better contenders for the Big 12 crown and more likely to make a run in March.