WACO (AP) – No. 19 Baylor was better this time against Kansas. Still not good enough to beat the second-ranked Jayhawks.
After taking the lead into halftime on Rico Gathers’ first-ever 3-pointer and then going up by as many as eight points, the Bears stumbled down the stretch in a 66-60 loss Tuesday night that put Kansas a step closer to its 12th consecutive Big 12 title.
“I was proud of how we competed and played for about 36 minutes, and then I wish we could do that last 4 minutes over again,” Bears coach Scott Drew said. “I don’t think we executed as well as we’d like. We didn’t rebound as well as we’d like down the stretch. But I think we’ve seen marked improvement from the first time we played them.”
The Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3) had three consecutive scores after offensive rebounds in their late go-ahead stretch.
Landen Lucas had the tiebreaking layup with 3:03 left after one of his four rebounds in that closing span. Wayne Selden, who finished with six points, had four of those in the final 2 1/2 minutes, along with two offensive rebounds in that span that led to points.
“All the credit to them. They fought hard at the end of the game. … They’re tough,” said Al Freeman, who led Baylor with 17 points. “But there’s going to be games like this for us the rest of the year, especially this time of the year when every game matters. We’re going to bring that toughness, too.”
Baylor (20-8, 9-6) lost its Big 12 opener 102-74 at Kansas on Jan. 2, when the Jayhawks were also No. 2.
“There are no moral victories, but I like how we’re headed in the right direction,” Drew said.
Frank Mason III had 19 points and Perry Ellis added 15 for Kansas, which has a two-game lead over No. 14 West Virginia in the Big 12 standings with three league games remaining. Graham had 11 points and Lucas had 10 rebounds to go with his five points.
The Jayhawks host Texas Tech on Saturday with a chance to guarantee at least a share of the Big 12 title.
“That’s big for us,” Lucas said. “About a month ago, a lot of people were doubting us and what-not.”
Taurean Prince added 12 points for Baylor.
The Bears were ahead 45-37, which would equal their largest lead, on Ish Wainright’s 3-pointer on a possession set up when he had a steal — basically taking the ball out of Jamari Traylor’s hands and getting the ball back after a couple of passes.
There were eight ties and 17 lead changes Tuesday night, along with a span of more than 3 1/2 minutes when neither team scored.
Freeman’s 3 with 8:05 left put the Bears up 52-51, and their next score was another Freeman 3 with 4:11 left to put them back ahead after Mason’s jumper had just ended a long scoring drought by Kansas.
Baylor led 36-33 at halftime on the buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Gathers, their 6-foot-8 senior forward whose first career attempt from beyond the arc came on his 836th shot in his 135th game. He made the shot from the corner in front of the Kansas bench after a court-length pass from Wainright.
Gathers was still excitedly pounding his chest going into locker room after knocking down someone who was standing at the entrance to the tunnel.
“It was a tough shot. He made it,” Lucas said. “That was just a letdown on my part by even letting him get the shot off.”
WINLESS AGAINST THE BEST
Baylor is 0-16 all-time against the No. 1 or No. 2 teams, including 0-3 this season. They lost to then-No. 1 Oklahoma at home on Jan. 23.
BETTER ON ROAD
After losing three straight Big 12 road games, the Jayhawks have won their last four as part of an eight-game winning streak overall.
Kansas: The Jayhawks made missed six of their first seven shots, but made 11 of their next 18 before halftime. They shot 50 percent (23 of 46) in the game. … Kansas has a 26-4 series lead, and won seven straight over Baylor. … The Jayhawks have reached 24 wins for the 11th consecutive season.
Baylor: The Bears had been 20-0 this season when leading at any point after halftime. … Of their 21 losses the past two years, 15 have been away from home and 14 were to ranked teams.
Kansas hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.
Baylor is at TCU on Saturday.
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