Baylor Takes on Kansas for Big 12 Finals Spot

The Baylor Bears look to get their first win over Kansas in 2015, and advance to back-to-back Big 12 championship games. Can the Bears continue their success against Kansas in March, and get another chance at that elusive Big 12 championship?

The Baylor Bears look to continue their run of great runs in March with a semifinals match-up against top-seed Kansas. The Jayhawks are coming in off of a lackluster win against TCU, without two of their key post men. Perry Ellis has missed the last few games with a knee injury while Cliff Alexander is being held out due to possible NCAA infractions. Perry has not been fully ruled out quite yet, but the general consensus is that coach Bill Self will hold out his star player until the NCAA tournament begins. With a short-handed Kansas team, can the Bears get their first win over KU in 2015, and continue their strong play against the Jayhawks in March?

No. 16 Baylor (24-8, 11-7) vs. No. 9 Kansas (25-7, 13-5)
Date March 13, 2015 | 6:00 p.m. CT
Location Kansas City, Mo. | Sprint Center (18,972)
Radio ESPN Central Texas
Online Audio Listen Online
Live Stats Gametracker
Twitter @BaylorMBB

Fun Stats of the Game

-Coach Scott Drew is 3-0 against Kansas in games during March, and is one of just 4 coaches to have beaten Kansas 3 times since 2009

-Baylor is playing in the Big 12 Championship semifinals for the 5th time in the last 7 seasons (3-1), and looking for their third Big 12 finals appearance in 4 seasons

-Baylor is 28-10 in postseason tournaments (conference, national) over the last seven seasons

-Baylor has out-rebounded 27 of 32 opponents this season, including both games vs. Kansas

-In its last 5 games, Kansas is just 8-59 (13.56%) from 3-point range

Keys to the Game

1. Take away Oubre - This is much easier said than done. The very talented freshman has continued to get better and better this year, and scored a career high 25 points yesterday in their close win over TCU. He has been exceptional at not settling for long jumpers, and attacking the paint. With a season high 19 free throw attempts, Oubre lived on the foul line against TCU. He has scored at least 12 points in 5 straight games and 7 of his last 8. Oubre is the "X-Factor" for Kansas, as his length and shooting ability from the small forward position allow them to play small ball at times as he is a capable rebounder when playing at power forward. With Perry Ellis possibly missing the game, look for the Jayhawks to possible put Oubre at the free throw line and run their offense through him.

2. Attack the Paint We heard it during timeouts of the Baylor and West Virginia game. Coach Drew pleading with his players to go inside, attack the paint and get trips to the free throw line. As a result, the Bears attempted 16 more free throws than the Mountaineers. Against Kansas, a similar strategy should be in play. With two key post-players possibly not playing, Kansas has been relying more and more on Sophomore Landen Lucas and junior Jamari Traylor. Lucas has 10 starts this year, with most of those coming early in the year. He has not been a big impact guy for them until the last two games. He has scored 13 points against both Oklahoma and TCU and has pulled down a combined 19 rebounds in the last two games.

Traylor has been the third big-man in their rotation for most of the season, averaging over 20 minutes per game. He is a very good offensive rebounder and one of the better rim protectors on the team. He is an aggressive defender who struggles with foul trouble quite often. Baylor has to take advantage of that aggressiveness and get to the deeper part of the KU bench. With forwards Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Brannen Greene both capable of playing small forward and pushing Kelly Oubre down to power forward, the Jayhawks lose quite a bit of bulk and size when they go smaller. That is the Bears best opportunity to go on runs, especially off of offensive rebounds and second chance point opportunities.

3. Hit them Early and Take the Crowd Away - One big benefit for the Jayhawks (and Iowa State Cyclones for that matter) is the proximity of the Kansas City site to their fan bases. These "neutral" court games are anything but when playing one of those two teams. The Bears have had some big road wins this year, including at Iowa State. In that win, as well as the win at West Virginia, the Bears got out to an early lead, took the crowd out of it and used their physicality to not only keep the lead but grow it. Baylor has to come out firing, and hitting those early shots. They struggled against West Virginia in the quarterfinals from behind the arc. That can't happen against Kansas. Baylor needs Kenny Chery, Royce O'Neale, Lester Medford and Taurean Waller-Prince hitting open three-pointers. They need Ricardo Gathers bullying the Jayhawks around on the inside for rebounds and put-backs. They need a dominant game offensively, where it is not just Prince making shots.

What Happened Last Time?

Baylor fell 74-64 to Kansas, as a late 17-9 run by Kansas to close the game gave KU the breathing room it needed. The game was close until that late run, with the Bears shooting very well for most of the game. Then the shots stopped falling and Kansas just kept coming and coming.

Predictions – Kansas wins 68-66 (41% chance for win) – Kansas wins 68-66 (44% chance for win)

Tim Watkins Writer– Baylor wins 65-62

With a short-handed Kansas team, the Bears use their size and depth advantage inside to bully their way to a win over the top-seeded Jayhawks. Rico Gathers enjoys the evening start, and dominates with a big-time double-double, and carries the Bears to another Big 12 Tournament finals appearance.

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