Scott Drew

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and forward Jamari Traylor, back, celebrate a dunk by Wayne Selden Jr. (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, March 11, 2016. Kansas defeated Baylor 70-66. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

No. 1 Kansas beats No. 22 Baylor 70-66 in Big 12 semifinals

Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self said the final couple minutes of Friday night’s Big 12 semifinal against Baylor didn’t take anything away from his team’s impressive second-half performance.

Even if it almost took away a win.

After overcoming a halftime deficit to build a comfortable lead, Self put in his backups to coax the game to its conclusion. But the No. 22 Bears rallied, forcing the Kansas starters back onto the floor, where they finally managed to finish off a 70-66 victory.

“I had one guy ask me yesterday, `Hey, when you get a lead in the last two minutes, why don’t you play your bench?”‘ Self said. “And I did. And it didn’t work out so great.”

Al Freeman’s 3-pointer got Baylor within 68-64 with 20 seconds left, and that was when Self sent his top players back on the floor. Jonathan Motley’s putback then got the Bears within three with five seconds to go, but Devonte Graham calmly made the second of two free throws at the other end to put the game away.

Graham had 14 points and eight assists as the Jayhawks (29-4) beat the Bears (22-11) for the third time this season – and avenged their tournament loss from a year ago. Perry Ellis scored 20 points.

Kansas will play sixth-ranked Oklahoma or No. 9 West Virginia for the title Saturday night.

“Proud that our guys didn’t quit at the end,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Kansas really executed well in the second half. I told coach Self, they guard so well.”

Freeman scored 14 points and Rico Gathers had 13 points and nine boards, but nobody in green got into much of a rhythm against the Jayhawks’ man-to-man defense. Taurean Prince was held to nine points, going 0 for 6 from beyond the arc, and Ish Wainwright managed four points on 2-for-9 shooting before fouling out.

The victory was the 13th straight for Kansas, which can match the number of tournament titles won by every other Big 12 school with its 10th. The Jayhawks also improved to 3-0 at the Sprint Center this season with their eighth consecutive win over the Bears.

Not that they didn’t have a chance: Baylor forged a 23-21 lead after a sloppy first half.

The teams combined for 17 turnovers, Kansas at one point throwing it away on four straight possessions. Baylor’s Lester Medford tossed a pass to nobody at one end of the floor, and then Ellis launched an air ball from beyond the arc as the teams went into a deep offensive funk.

For a while, it seemed as if nobody wanted to score.

There were only two real highlights: Graham had five assists for Kansas, including back-to-back alley-oop lobs to Ellis, and Jake Lindsey hit a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Bears the halftime edge.

Kansas began to take control as soon as it left the locker room.

Ellis went on a personal 8-0 run, and Wayne Selden Jr. woke up a sleepy crowd with a soaring dunk. A few minutes later, Graham tossed up a lob from just inside midcourt that Selden threw down for a 43-33 lead.

“We knew we were playing flat, kind of dead, not a lot of energy,” Graham said. “We knew we weren’t playing to our capability. … In the second half we tried to change it.”

Baylor began trying to get the ball to Gathers and Prince in the paint, but the Jayhawks did a good job of collapsing on defense. The Bears missed nine consecutive shots during a critical stretch midway through the second half, and that allowed the Jayhawks to establish a comfortable lead.

They wound up needing just about every point of it.

“We know the game is never over with us,” Freeman said. “We all have confidence in each other. Nobody has quit in them. We’re going to play every possession hard until it’s the last one in the game.”

QUOTABLE

Asked whether having to put the starters back in late in the game is a coach’s worst nightmare, Self replied: “No, the worst nightmare would be losing. This was just a bad dream.”

TIP-INS

Baylor: Motley finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. … The Bears were playing in their third straight semifinal. They still have never won the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas: Carlton Bragg had 10 points and seven rebounds. He had a career-high 12 points in a quarterfinal win over Kansas State. … Frank Mason III had nine points and six rebounds.

UP NEXT

Baylor heads back to Waco, Texas.

Kansas plays for its first title since 2013.

No. 22 Baylor beats No. 23 Texas 75-61 in Big 12 tournament

Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright (24) saves the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Scott Drew thought his team was playing well entering the Big 12 tournament, but the conference was so challenging this year that Baylor kept coming out on the losing end.

The Bears finally got rewarded for their solid play Thursday.

Taurean Prince had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Rico Gathers added 13 points and No. 22 Baylor’s baffling zone defense shut down No. 23 Texas in a 75-61 victory in the tournament quarterfinals.

“That’s the tough thing in the Big 12. When you’re playing great teams, you can be playing good basketball and not get the win,” Drew said. “I think we were playing decent. We just weren’t winning.”

They picked a fine time to change that narrative.

The fifth-seeded Bears (22-10) opened a 15-point lead in the first half, then used Drew’s trademark defense to keep the fourth-seeded Longhorns (20-12) from coming back. The reward is a date in the semifinals against top-ranked Kansas or Kansas State on Friday night.

“We just wanted to come out with energy, flying around, give good ball pressure,” said Al Freeman, who scored 12 for the Bears. “We wanted to limit them on second-chance points as much as possible.”

They did that by out-rebounding the Longhorns 46-27.

Connor Lammert had 15 points, Kerwin Roach had 13 and Shaquille Cleare had 12 for Texas, but the bigger story was who got shut down: All-Big 12 guard Isaiah Taylor scored just eight, all in the second half.

“We always come out sluggish, come out slowly, and we have to battle back,” said Taylor, who did have nine assists. “We weren’t able to battle back.”

The Longhorns have lost four straight to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.

Texas was hoping to get a boost from the return of big man Cameron Ridley, who had been out since late December with a broken foot. He was cleared to practice this week and checked in with about 6 minutes to go in the first half, then immediately got fouled and contributed two free throws.

Ridley wound up playing just 2 minutes, though.

“The doctor and trainer gave me a restriction on how many minutes he could play,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “At halftime he was feeling a little pain so that was that. He wasn’t going to play anymore.”

The Bears opened a 31-16 lead late in the first half, slicing right through a Texas defense that held Oklahoma State to 50 points its last time out. And when the Longhorns made a small run to trim their deficit to single digits, Jake Lindsey hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Baylor a 38-27 lead at the break.

The Bears pushed their advantage to 59-40 on Johnathan Motley’s breakaway dunk midway through the second half, and the small contingent of Longhorns fans – with the Jayhawks and Wildcats waiting in the wings, there wasn’t much Baylor flavor either – continued to sit on their hands.

Smart’s bunch finally gave them a reason to cheer.

Taylor’s first basket of the game with 10:36 to go started a 10-0 run, and Prince Ibeh capped it with a rim-rattling dunk over Gathers to make it 59-50 with about 7 minutes to go.

The Longhorns kept the Bears uncomfortable the rest of the way, but they were unable to make the stops they needed to complete their comeback. Prince combined with Al Freeman and Lester Medford to make enough free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

“They were the more aggressive team for the majority of the game,” said Smart, who got his first taste of the Big 12 tournament. “That’s what allowed them to win.”

RICO’S HEALTH

Gathers dealt with an illness late in the season, but said he’s close to being in shape. He played 22 minutes against the Longhorns. “Trying to get myself back into the groove of things,” he said.

TIP-INS

Baylor: Ish Wainwright had eight boards. … The Bears are 22-2 when leading at the half. … Baylor is 11-7 against Texas since snapping a 24-game losing streak in the rivalry.

Texas: Taylor also contributed three rebounds. … The Longhorns had won three of their last four, with their lone loss to Kansas. … Texas lost to Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals two years ago.

UP NEXT

Baylor faces the Jayhawks or Wildcats in Friday night’s semifinals.

Texas awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding on Sunday.

No. 14 West Virginia takes care of No. 15 Baylor

West Virginia forward Devin Williams (41) dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Saturday, Feb, 6, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
AP Photo/Raymond Thompson
1 Comment

Not exactly noted for their ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, No. 14 West Virginia grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 thanks in part to their perimeter shooting. The Mountaineers shot 7-for-14 from three and 49.1 percent from the field in a 80-69 win over No. 15 Baylor that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe.

Bob Huggins’ team led by as much as 19 in the second half, and the way in which they did it is what makes the win so impressive. “Press Virginia” yielded just ten Baylor turnovers, but that low number didn’t matter much thanks to West Virginia’s execution offensively.

They found quality looks against Baylor’s 1-1-3 zone in the first half and made them at a good clip, forcing Scott Drew to switch to man-to-man. That change didn’t do much to slow down West Virginia either, as Daxter Miles Jr. scored 20 points and sixth man Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench. And with Devin Williams chipping in with 16 points and seven boards in the post, outplaying Baylor’s Rico Gathers Sr. (five points, seven rebounds), West Virginia grabbed control of the game in the first half and did not relinquish it.

The usual formula for West Virginia offensively is to attack the offensive glass, as their offensive rebounding percentage (43 percent) is tops in the country. “Their best offense is a missed shot” is a familiar refrain heard when people discuss the Mountaineers, who entered the game shooting just over 30 percent from three.

They didn’t need to lean on those second chances as heavily as they normally do Saturday night, not only because of the improved accuracy but also the improved work in finding shots. The ball moved against the Baylor defense and so did the players, resulting in an offensive attack that proved tougher for the visiting Bears to stop that one would expect given the statistics entering the game.

West Virginia was already established as a contender in the Big 12, but thanks to their win Saturday night the Mountaineers are the current pace setters. With a showdown at No. 7 Kansas set for Tuesday night, this was a big win for Bob Huggins’ team to get. And with it coming in spite of a low turnover (forced) count, this should only help West Virginia in the confidence department moving forward.

No. 17 Baylor surges past Georgia 83-73 in Big 12/SEC

Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) shoots past Georgia forward Yante Maten (1) and forward Mike Edwards (32) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 83-73. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP
Leave a comment

WACO, Texas (AP) Rico Gathers had 17 points and nine rebounds, and No. 17 Baylor used a quick start to the second half to beat Georgia 83-73 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday night.

Gathers had one of Baylor’s five three-point possessions during a 17-2 run in the first 4 minutes after halftime to turn a 35-32 deficit into a 49-37 lead. The Bears (17-4) scored just three points before the first media timeout in the first half.

Ishmail Wainright hit a tying 3-pointer 12 seconds into the second half, and Al Freeman put Baylor ahead for good with another in the Bears’ 34th consecutive home win against a nonconference opponent. It was the first meeting between the schools.

J.J. Frazier had 21 points and 11 assists to lead the Bulldogs (11-8), who lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

After Frazier scored Georgia’s final five points before halftime to break a 30-all tie, Lester Medford set the tone for Baylor’s early second-half spurt by picking up the ball near midcourt with 5.1 seconds left and racing to the basket for a layup just before the halftime buzzer.

Freeman had two 3-pointers during the run and scored all 14 of his points after halftime. Taurean Prince joined Gathers with a three-point play.

The sixth three-point conversion in the first 7 minutes of the second half – a layup and free throw by Johnathan Motley – pushed the Baylor run to 26-6 for a 56-41 lead, starting with Medford’s layup to finish the first half.

Prince scored 13 points, Motley added 12 and Medford had nine points and eight assists as the Bears improved to 8-1 against the SEC since the 2012-13 season.

It was the 16th win in 17 home games for Baylor, the only loss coming to No. 1 Oklahoma last weekend. The Bears are tied atop the Big 12 with Oklahoma and West Virginia at 6-2.

The Bulldogs shot 50 percent and led most of the way before halftime, but missed 10 of their first 12 attempts as the Bears took control on their way to a 3-0 record in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

All of Georgia’s four double-figure scorers reached the mark against Baylor, with Yante Maten getting 18 points followed by Kenny Gaines (14) and Charles Mann (13). But the Bulldogs were outscored 26-7 off the bench by the deeper Bears. Motley led Baylor’s reserves in scoring.

TIP-INS

Georgia: Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are the remaining Big 12 teams the Bulldogs haven’t faced. … Georgia fell to 12-13 against the Big 12.

Baylor: Prince was honored before the game for becoming the school’s 30th 1,000-point scorer. He reached the milestone Jan. 9 at Iowa State. … The Baylor football team took the Russell Athletic Bowl trophy to midcourt for a halftime celebration, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.

UP NEXT

Georgia: Hosts South Carolina on Tuesday.

Baylor: Hosts Texas on Monday.

Al Freeman’s overtime surge pushes No. 13 Baylor past K-State

Jackson State guard Jesse Love (25) celebrates after sinking a basket in front of Jackson State forward Janarius Middleton (35) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Leave a comment

In their Big 12 opener January 2, No. 13 Baylor was on the receiving end of a 102-74 beating at Allen Fieldhouse and looked nothing like a team capable of contending for a conference title. Eighteen days later, Scott Drew’s Bears grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a 79-72 double-overtime win over Kansas State in Waco.

The key in the extra sessions was guard Al Freeman, who scored all 11 of his points after the end of regulation. Freeman was responsible for all seven of Baylor’s points in the first overtime, and his scoring outburst came just in time for Baylor as they struggled to put away the Wildcats. Baylor wasn’t at their best, committing 19 turnovers (to be fair, K-State had 22) and allowing Kansas State to grab 17 offensive rebounds amongst other issues.

But they found a way to get the win, avoiding a defeat that would have caused a five-way tie atop the Big 12 standings.

Of those 19 turnovers Taurean Prince was responsible for six of them, and when combined with his 7-for-18 night from the field the senior wing wasn’t as efficient as he’s capable of being. That, along with the play of guards Freeman and Lester Medford (nine points, 13 assists and three turnovers) will be key for Baylor if they’re to remain a factor in the Big 12 race and remove the bad taste of last season’s hasty NCAA tournament exit from their collective mouths.

The talent is there, especially in the front court with Prince being joined by Rico Gathers Sr. and Johnathan Motley, and reserve Terry Maston averaging 10.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in Big 12 play off the bench. How consistent the guards and the other key decision-makers (meaning Prince) can be with the ball in their hands will determine just how good Baylor can be.

If they’re all producing in their roles, Baylor will certainly have staying power. With No. 1 Oklahoma visiting Waco this weekend, Baylor couldn’t afford to lose to Kansas State. And thanks to Al Freeman getting going in overtime, the Bears will go into that game in sole possession of first place.

Prince scores career-high 34, No. 23 Baylor tops NMSU 85-70

Baylor forward Taurean Prince (21), left, and forward Rico Gathers (2), right, wait to come in against New Mexico State in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Waco, Texas. (AP/Rod Aydelotte)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

WACO, Texas (AP) Taurean Prince scored a career-high 34 points, Lester Medford had 10 points and 12 assists and No. 23 Baylor beat New Mexico State 85-70 on Wednesday night.

Prince was 13 of 19 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, and led the Bears (9-2) with six rebounds in their 32nd consecutive non-conference home win.

Ishmail Wainwright scored a career-high 14 points and Al Freeman added 10 for Baylor.

Pascal Siakam had 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Aggies (7-6), who were facing their first nationally ranked opponent of the season.