In the first Big 12 Tournament action since the Buddy Hield and Georges Niang show, the Kansas Jayhawks systematically wore down the offensively challenged Baylor Bears.
Kansas 70 Baylor 66
The first semifinal of the Big 12 Tournament did not start with the same fury and offensive prowess that fans were exposed to the night prior. In a sluggish start, Baylor was able to successfully control the tempo early on and provide just enough offense to consistently hang around.
Kansas tried to push the pace and attack the Baylor zone before the Bears could get set, which yielded a couple easy baskets in the form of lobs to Perry Ellis, but it wasn't enough to mount a sizable lead as the Jayhawks struggled to a 13-11 advantage at the under twelve timeout. Without Ellis on the floor, Kansas' offense seemed to stall as the Jayhawks went scoreless for nearly four minutes, until five straight from Devonte' Graham forced Scott Drew to call one of his early timeouts.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending how you look at it), Bill Self's squad brought their own strong defense to the tilt, allowing the Bears to hit just 6 of their first 17 shots and only 1 of their first 7 from 3. I could write more on this first half, but it really wasn't thrilling basketball. It was a sloppy collage of turnovers and bricks.
About the only highlight was Jake Lindsey hitting a buzzer beater three pointer to give Baylor a 23-21 halftime edge.
The second half began as inconspicuously as the first, but the Jayhawks started to exert their dominance at about the fourteen minute mark. Baylor had trimmed the KU lead to two points (34-32) when all of the sudden, The Jayhawks unleashed a 17-8 run and never looked back.
Wayne Selden even killed Ishmail Wainright on live television (and fouled him out with almost eleven minutes left).
Wayne. Selden. https://t.co/zBs5V5lhvJ— Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) March 12, 2016
After Wainright's exit, the Jayhawk lead hovered around 8-12 points for the remainder of the contest. Even with the game all but decided, Scott Drew couldn't leave any timeouts and took his last one with 3:06 left (if you're one of the degenerate gamblers in this fine blogging community).
The Sprint Center staff finally pulled the lid off the Baylor basket in the final two minutes as the Bears trimmed a fifteen point deficit to three with five seconds remaining. Coincidentally, Self had to put his starters back in after pulling them a few minutes prior. In the end the comeback fell short and the Jayhawks were able to advance to Saturday's Championship matchup.
Perry Ellis paced the Jayhawks with 20 points and 4 boards, while Al Freeman led the Bears with 14 points and 6 boards in the losing effort.
Kansas will play the winner of Oklahoma and West Virginia for the Big 12 Tournament Championship on Saturday evening at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN.