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Feb 9, 2024 4:10 am

No. 4 Kansas, No. 13 Baylor clash in key Big 12 battle

Kansas Jayhawks

Although they rank among the top teams in the country, No. 13 Baylor and No. 4 Kansas are not at the top of their own conference. The squads will try to take a step in that direction when they meet Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, Kan.

Both teams have six wins in Big 12 play, with Baylor (17-5, 6-3) tied for second place and a half-game ahead of fourth-place Kansas (18-5, 6-4). Each is looking up at No. 5 Houston in first place, with the Bears a half-game back and tied with No. 14 Iowa State, while the Jayhawks are a full game back.

Baylor has yet to face Houston this season, while Kansas defeated the Cougars 78-65 last weekend. But the Jayhawks dropped a 75-70 overtime decision at Kansas State on Monday.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21 points and pulled in 12 rebounds for Kansas on Monday, while Dajuan Harris Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr. each scored 15 points. KJ Adams Jr. scored 13 points, including a game-tying dunk with 14.2 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.

Harris gave the Jayhawks an early overtime lead on a 3-pointer before the Wildcats rallied with eight points from Tylor Perry in the extra period.

“The thing about it is, folks, we’re not good enough to not execute, not play smart,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You go on the road, you need to make free throws, you need to do a lot. You need to take advantage of the opportunities, and we didn’t do that well enough.”

All four of Kansas’ conference defeats came on the road. The Jayhawks are not only 12-0 at home this season, but they are 19-1 at home all time against Baylor, with the lone defeat occurring in 2020.

Baylor is on a three-game winning streak during a season of runs. The current surge came after a three-game losing streak. Before that was a five-game winning streak that began during the nonconference portion of the schedule. There also was a 9-0 start to the season that was followed by back-to-back defeats.

The Bears enter off a 79-73 home victory over No. 23 Texas Tech on Tuesday. RayJ Dennis paced Baylor with 21 points and five assists, while Yves Missi had 17 points and Jayden Nunn contributed 14. Bears leading scorer Ja’Kobe Walter (14.2 points per game) has finished in single digits in three consecutive contests.

In his first season at Baylor after spending time at Boise State and Toledo, Dennis has averaged 13.8 points with 6.4 assists.

“I think RayJ has been trending up and getting used to Big 12 basketball and the grind required of it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “He probably could have had eight or nine assists (vs. the Red Raiders) if we had made some shots.

“What excites me is we haven’t played our best basketball yet. At some point, that’s our goal. We haven’t been the best we can be on both ends of the court at the same time.”

Kansas is 35-9 all-time against Baylor and has a 6-5 advantage in the series going back to February 2018. The series has been competitive ever since Kansas’ 11-game winning streak from January 2014 to January 2018.

–Field Level Media

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