Kansas coach Bill Self has never lost to Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse and knows the Bears have dropped all three Big 12 road games this season.
But he still has a lot of respect for the Bears, and sees them as a much better team than its 2-4 start in the Big 12 has shown.
“Baylor is one of the best teams in the country,” Self said. “They obviously had a good outing last time (against Oklahoma State), and they’re more than capable. They’ve played more man than in recent years, and it’s hard to have offensive success against them. They’ve got a terrific combination with a good point guard and a 7-0 center inside that can anchor them. Our games usually go down to the wire against Baylor.”
The Bears will try to win their first game ever against No. 10 Kansas in Lawrence at 5 p.m. Saturday after going 0-15 in previous trips. Baylor coach Scott Drew doesn’t believe his team will be intimidated by the packed house of 16,300 fans who help make the atmosphere one of the best in college basketball.
Baylor came close to winning its first game at Allen Fieldhouse last season before the Jayhawks pulled out a 73-68 decision.
“I don’t think our guys are in awe of any facility,” Drew said. “The big thing is we had two games against them last year where we could have won both but we didn’t. So we just need to execute better down the stretch and make sure we get those offensive rebounds instead of them in the last two minutes of the game. We need to make sure offensively we’re not missing any assignments and controlling what we can control.”
A road win over the Jayhawks would be a big resume builder as the Bears (12-6) shoot for their school-record fifth straight NCAA tournament berth. But that’s much easier said than done at Allen Fieldhouse.
“They have a great environment,” said Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil. “And if you’re not really well prepared for it, it can kind of stun you. You just can’t get caught up in the crowd. We obviously have an older crew of guys, so nobody’s going in there scared or timid about anything. The team has great belief.”
Coming off Monday night’s 76-60 win over Oklahoma State at the Ferrell Center, the Bears will ride into the game with some momentum.
After struggling in the first five Big 12 games, Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte broke out with a career-high 30 points as he nailed seven of 12 3-pointers. Lecomte’s outside shooting gave the Bears the balance they needed as Lual-Acuil collected 12 points and seven rebounds and forward Terry Maston finished with eight points and seven boards.
“We like to play inside-out,” Lual-Acuil said. “It’s a big part of what we do. It’s one of those things that we really need to focus on being better at, but I have full belief in the guys like Manu and King (McClure). As we saw last game, Manu can get hot at any moment.”
The Jayhawks (15-3, 5-1) have won a remarkable 13 straight Big 12 titles under Self, and are alone in first place after they rallied from a 16-point deficit to pull off a 71-66 win over No. 6 West Virginia in Morgantown on Monday night.
But this has been a vulnerable Kansas team that doesn’t possess much depth. The Jayhawks haven’t won any of their Big 12 games by more than six points and dropped an 85-73 decision to Texas Tech on Jan. 2 at home. In their last home game, the Jayhawks squeaked out a 73-72 win over Kansas State.
The Jayhawks will likely use an eight-man rotation against the Bears with 7-0 sophomore center Udoka Azubuike surrounded by guards Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Legerald Vick and Malik Newman in the starting lineup.
All five Kansas starters average double-figure scoring as Graham is hitting 18.3 points per game, Mykhailiuk 16.6, Vick 14.6, Azubuike 14.5 and Newman 10.6. They’ve been outstanding from 3-point range as Graham, Mykhailiuk and Vick are all shooting over 40 percent.
“Kansas, especially at home, is really good in transition,” Drew said. “You have to stop transition buckets. Typically it’s tougher to stop four guards than it is three guards because they get down the court quicker and space the court so well. So we really need to make sure we’re not turning it over.”