After a few days of rest and recovery following their Monday night loss at Kansas State, 4th-ranked Kansas got back on the winning track with a 64-61 over Baylor on Saturday evening at Allen Fieldhouse.
The win improved the Jayhawks to 19-5 overall and 7-4 in Big 12 play. KU also remained unbeaten at home so far this season, at 13-0.
Baylor, meanwhile, dropped to 17-6 overall and 6-4 in Big 12 play.
The Jayhawks' latest win came with a short-handed roster, as both senior starter Kevin McCullar Jr. (injury) and freshman guard Jamari McDowell (illness) missed the game. That left the Jayhawks with just seven regular rotation players, but that proved to be enough in a big win for KU's chances in the Big 12 race.
Next up, the Jayhawks will jump back into a Saturday-Monday turnaround when they travel to Lubbock, Texas on Monday for a Big Monday battle with Texas Tech.
After that, it’s another few days of rest before heading to Oklahoma for a rematch with the Sooners. KU, which is 1-4 on the road in conference play so far, defeated OU, 78-66, in mid-January at Allen Fieldhouse.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from the Jayhawks’ Saturday clash with Baylor.
More from Saturday's win over Baylor...
• That start, though: Down to a seven-man rotation and without starter Kevin McCullar Jr. in uniform, the Jayhawks did what they typically do in big games at Allen Fieldhouse — started with absolute fire. Behind great passing and on the strength of jacked-up energy and intensity, KU raced out to a 12-4 lead, forcing Baylor coach Scott Drew to (a) call an early timeout to calm the waters and (b) potentially flashback to being in this very position in this building more times than he’d care to count in the past.
• Elmarko’s early impact: The last time McCullar missed a game, it was Jackson who found his way back into the starting lineup. In this one, Self went with veteran guard Nick Timberlake instead, leaving Jackson in his role as sixth man and first guard off the bench. It did not appear to bother him a bit. Immediately after 2 steals in first minute of checking in Jackson’s quick hands and elevated intensity led to back-to-back steals on Baylor possessions. He did get whistled for fouling a 3-point shooter later in the half — which led to the KU bench getting a technical foul and 5 free throws for the Bears — but he clearly was ready to go early on in this one. Jackson finished with a career-high 4 steals.
• Call it the Dickinson Dive: There’s no doubt the Jayhawks knew they were short-handed going into this one. And while a hot start is always the goal at home, it was clear from their early effort that they wanted to do whatever they could to grab control and make Baylor chase them. No play better indicated that than Hunter Dickinson diving to the floor after a KU miss to wrestle away a loose ball and save a possession. Not only did the big guy go down to get it, he got it. More than that, his effort play resulted in a foul on a Baylor player who dove on top of Dickinson in the scrum. On the ensuing inbounds play, KJ Adams scored an easy bucket inside to put KU up 7-4 and keep Kansas in control.
• Timberlake connects: He got the start but didn’t gain much in the way of confidence from being out there first. In fact, he missed his first two 3-point looks and didn’t have much else to show for his afternoon on the stat sheet. But with around 12:30 to play in the game, Timberlake found himself all alone in the corner across from KU’s bench and Dajuan Harris Jr. hit him right in the hands for a rhythm 3-pointer. This time, he drained it. The bucket, which followed a 3-pointer by Harris, pushed KU’s lead to 50-41 and forced Baylor to call a timeout with 12:22 to play. This season hasn’t gone anywhere close to how Timberlake and the Jayhawks had hoped it would for him, but he continues to work and stay ready and the KU coaches and players continue to believe him and give him looks. This time, it paid off and the crowd roared with approval as he went to the bench for the timeout. He missed his next triple but followed that up with a steal and transition dunk that sent the Fieldhouse fans into another frenzy. He was a big part of a couple of issues when KU was trying to close the game out, so it was an up-and-down sort of game for the veteran guard. But, as Self said after the victory when asked how Timberlake performed, "We won; I'll just leave it at that."
• Spotted in the crowd: It's not unusual to see dozens and dozens of different KU jerseys in the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse. Heck, it's not even that rare to see NBA jerseys of former Jayhawks like Christian Braun with the Denver Nuggets, Joel Embiid with the Philadelphia 76ers and others. But in this one, I spotted a blue No. 10 KU jersey that had "Furphy" on the back. That was quick! And it's pretty easy to predict we'll see a lot more of those moving forward.
• Dajuan at the rim: In the first half alone, Harris missed two driving layups and had another one blocked, leading to at least six points that Kansas could’ve had. It’s hard to be too critical of Harris missing shots because, for most of the season, KU fans and even his head coach has asked him to take more of them. Layups are tough to miss, but it’s not as if he missed wide-open bunnies. All three shots were contested and off of hard drives to the paint. Still, even he’d probably say you gotta make ’em. Later in the half, Harris did get a goaltending call on the Bears to help even it out. But he followed that by short-arming a floater in the paint on one of the first few possessions of the second half. Harris wasn’t the only Jayhawk to struggle near the rim. Dickinson missed a few in a row on separate possessions early in the second half.
• Lopsided on the glass: Kansas was out-rebounded nearly 2-to-1 by the Bears in this one, but, as Self always likes to say, there can be a pretty clear reason for such skewed stats. Sometimes, it's either KU or its opponent shooting a high percentage and KU not having an opportunity to grab rebounds on the offensive or defensive end. That wasn't the case today. What was, though, was KU's ability to turn Baylor over so that the Bears didn't get as many shots. BU finished with a 42-25 rebounding edge but also had 21 turnovers. So, while the turnover margin might jump off the page at you, don't forget to think critically about why it happened. Sure, you'd like to see Kansas close the gap a little. Especially by doing work on the offensive glass. But the work they did on defense was more than enough to offset what was happening on the glass.
• FIVE free throws?: It’s not all that uncommon to see a team get three free throws at a time, but the Bears got five consecutive free throws — all makes — in the first half of this game. In fact, it was BU guard Ja’Kobe Walker who made all of them. The play started with Walker drawing a foul on Elmarko Jackson in the corner on a 3-point shot. Jackson gestured that Walker kicked his leg out to create the contact and the KU bench clearly agreed. It’s anybody’s guess what was said, but evidently it was enough for the official to call a technical foul on the KU bench. That led to two more free throws for Walker, who calmly drained all five of them to turn a 25-15 KU lead into just 25-20.
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