LAWRENCE, Kansas (AP) — Not much has gone right for No. 24 Baylor since Big 12 play began, and the Bears sure didn’t solve many of their problems Monday night.
After watching No. 8 Kansas go on a big second-half run to seize control, the Bears wound up falling 78-68 for their third straight loss. And a team that started the season 12-1 and was ranked in the top 10 is barely out of the basement in the Big 12.
“Three games in a row, none of us are used to it,” said Brady Heslip, who led the Bears with 19 points. “It hurts.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points for Kansas, most of them coming at the free throw line, and the Jayhawks (14-4, 5-0 Big 12) were 26 of 29 from there as a team. It helped them to put away Baylor for their fifth straight win — the last four over Top 25 opponents.
They are the first team to accomplish that feat since North Carolina in 1997.
Perry Ellis added 18 points and Joel Embiid had 12 for Kansas, which led 37-35 at halftime but used a 14-2 surge fueled by defense and hustle in the second half to draw away.
“I thought even though our defense wasn’t great tonight,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, “it was nice to have energy keying our run there, because we had so many opportunities.”
Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin added 16 points apiece for the Bears (13-5, 1-4), who were 13 of 27 from beyond the 3-point arc but just 9 of 20 from the free throw line.
“You can’t let them get separation,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “It’s hard to come back from double digits on this court.”
The teams combined for 16 turnovers in a disjointed first half that included 12 lead changes but virtually no rhythm. The Jayhawks managed to squeeze out the two-point halftime lead, but they had to shoot 60 percent from the field to do it.
That’s because Baylor was scorching from the perimeter.
Heslip hit all four of his 3-point tries in the half, and the 7-foot Austin added two — he was 0 for 4 inside the arc. Along with the two 3-pointers that Jefferson hit, the Bears knocked down 8 of 10 beyond the perimeter in the first half. They were 4 of 18 everywhere else.
“Coach Drew told us after last game we’re passing up too many shots,” Austin said. “He knows we have confidence in making them.”
The game remained close until Ellis scored inside with 12:48 remaining to start the Jayhawks on their game-defining run, and then came the two biggest highlights of the game.
The first came when Ellis stepped in front of a pass and took off toward the other end of the court, dunking the ball home while getting fouled. Naturally, he made the free throw.
The second highlight came moments later, when Kansas lost control of the ball under the Baylor basket. Freshman guard Wayne Selden tracked it down and saved it to Embiid as he crashed over a fan seated at a courtside table and wound up in the laps of two more fans wearing Bears clothing.
Everybody’s eyes immediately turned to Embiid — including the officials — and the 7-foot freshman converted the basket. The only people who seemed to notice that Selden’s foot was out of bounds were the folks who were able to catch the replay on television.
“Maybe he deserves it because that was a great hustle play,” Heslip said.
Drew burned another timeout as the game was starting to get away from them, but the Jayhawks kept on charging. Naadir Tharpe’s 3-pointer made it 60-46 with 8:16 remaining.
From there, it was a matter of Kansas maintaining its lead.
Austin hit a 3-pointer to get Baylor within 61-51 with just over 6 minutes left, but Wiggins made four straight from the free throw line. Heslip hit another 3-pointer with 3:45 to go, but Wiggins scored on a scooping layup to keep the cushion comfortable.
“We wanted to try to keep (Wiggins) out of the paint and make him make jumpers and that didn’t work too well,” Drew said. “Credit to him for getting to the free throw line and being aggressive.”