Kansas vs. Baylor score, takeaways: No. 5 Jayhawks rally from big halftime deficit to dominate No. 9 Bears

No. 5 Kansas pulled off a comeback for the ages on Saturday as the Jayhawks erased a 13-point halftime deficit and throttled No. 9 Baylor 87-71 behind a dominant run coming out of the locker room. KU started the second half on a 10-0 spurt, and it took the Jayhawks less than six minutes to entirely erase the deficit as they surged ahead on a Gradey Dick 3-pointer with 14:29 remaining.

The Bears never again found their footing while suffering just their second loss in 12 games. With the win, Kansas (22-5, 10-4 Big 12) stayed even with No. 6 Texas atop the Big 12 standings after the Longhorns squeaked out an overtime win against Oklahoma.

Baylor (20-7, 9-5) led 45-32 at halftime after shooting a blistering 9 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half with guards Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer and Keyonte George combining for 42 points. It wasn’t until Jalen Bridges hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the first half that someone from outside that trio scored for Baylor, which led by as much as 17 in the first half.

But the Bears’ collective hot shooting fizzled after halftime as Allen Fieldhouse came to life with the Jayhawks using a 34-9 run to take command. Jalen Wilson led KU with 21 points, and point guard Dajuan Harris played a starring role in the surge by scoring all of his 14 points after halftime. The Jayhawks are unbeaten when Harris scores more than three points.

On a day when Kansas honored last season’s national title-winning team, the 2022-23 squad paid fitting tribute with one of the most impressive halves played by any team in the sport this season. Baylor plays at No. 12 Kansas State on Tuesday, while Kansas plays at No. 22 TCU on Monday as the Big 12 title race hits the home stretch.

Kansas validates its seeding

The Jayhawks landed as the fourth No. 1 seed in Saturday’s NCAA Tournament bracket preview, and their showing only validated that placement. This team has gone through growing pains while replacing key players such as Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Remy Martin and David McCormack from last season’s championship run.

But if there was any doubt that this group is capable of defending the title, Saturday’s second-half performance erased it. Since a three-game losing streak in January, the Jayhawks have won six of their last seven with all six of the wins coming by eight or more points.

Humbling for Baylor

Baylor entered the day ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, but the Bears slotted just 78th defensively, and Kansas exposed Baylor’s defensive vulnerabilities in the second half. The Jayhawks shot 63.3% and totaled 55 points in the second half.

Kansas committed just five turnovers in the game, and the Bears registered no blocked shots. There is no doubt the Bears’ guard trio is an elite scoring group. However, they will need to ramp up their defensive intensity in the weeks ahead if Baylor is going to make a run in the Big 12 or NCAA Tournaments.

When Baylor won the national championship  in 2021, it had a pair of elite defensive stoppers in Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital. This group does not have a similar defensive game-changer. The Kansas loss marked just the fifth game back from injury for senior center Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and his presence helps, but the Bears will need more from their guards and wings on defense if they are going to reach their potential.

Adams’ efficiency

KJ Adams finished with 17 points on just 5-of-6 shooting from the floor as Kansas’ undersized big man turned in another efficient outing. He entered shooting 64.3% from the floor and continued to show his value as a quiet weapon for the Jayhawks.

The 6-foot-7 sophomore is a human highlight reel with his dunking ability, but he’s also a scrappy defender and rebounder who demonstrates a knack for getting to the right place at the right time to be set for lobs and quick floaters. 

Kansas relies on small lineups, but Adams continues to demonstrate that it can be a winning formula by standing out as an elite role player. This marked his fourth straight game in double digits and a bit of redemption after he scored just four points on 1-of-5 shooting in Kansas’ loss at Baylor on Jan. 23.


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