Statement made

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas Jayhawks headed into Monday night's highly anticipated match-up with the Baylor Bears wanting to send a message to...well...everyone that they're a team to be reckoned with. With stifling defense, outstanding play from their two best players and a frenzied Allen Fieldhouse behind them, they managed to do just that.

In the aftermath of their impressive 92-74 victory over the Baylor Bears late Monday night, three Kansas Jayhawks sat in the media room and debated the sequence of events that led to the evening's most dynamic play.

"I want to start with, I pitched it ahead," Elijah Johnson began.

Tyshawn Taylor nodded his head, grinning. "Elijah pitched it ahead to me, and I see T-Rob running."

"I went to the top of the stairs," Thomas Robinson chimed in.

"He pressed the up button," Taylor agreed. "And he went and got it."

Indeed, Robinson did, in fact, go and get it - catching Taylor's soft lob pass on the break with one hand, and slamming it home with a ferocity that shook the entire goal.

It was just the second field goal of the game for Kansas, handing them a 4-2 lead with 16:48 still to play in the first half. However, despite a couple of runs by the visiting Bears - who held the lead for a stretch before intermission - that play still managed to set the tone for the entire game.

For one, it set off a small bomb inside Allen Fieldhouse, as the 16,300 and change - fans were packed two and three deep at some spots in the rafters for the Big Monday game - exploded. The Old Barn can really rock when it wants to, and Monday night was one of those nights.

This isn't a great team, said Head Coach Bill Self afterward. Not yet. It needs energy upon which to feed, and the crowd provided it in abundance.

"The building was unbelievable," Self said. "It was fabulous. It's hard to say if it was better than it was against Ohio State, but it seemed like to me it was tonight."

The other key component to the victory Robinson's dunk represented was the team's attitude – its swagger and willingness to play in attack mode from the get-go.

Baylor is one of the deepest, most-talented and longest teams in the nation, with their starting lineup featuring three players at 6-foot-9 or taller. Hesitate or play soft, and their zone defense can swallow a team up. Prior to Monday night, it had done so 17 straight times during the 2011-2012 season.

But Robinson, Taylor, Johnson and junior center Jeff Withey were relentless in their effort on the defensive end and on the glass, which in turn sparked easy buckets on offense and still more energy from the crowd.

Withey pulled down an astonishing nine offensive rebounds - 10 total - and scored 10 points, to log another double-double. Robinson had 27 points and 14 rebounds of his own - astonishing numbers that are becoming almost commonplace with him.

And for the second game in a row, Taylor wasn't just good...

"He was great," Self said. "I thought our whole team was great though. I thought we attacked their zone great, I thought we guarded them well - the first half especially - rebounded great and played physical."

Down 27-22 with 6:01 remaining in the half, Taylor fueled a 17-2 run to close things out with an 11-point flurry, including a deep three-pointer with just six seconds on the clock.

"It was a called play," Self said, smiling. "It was coaching. I said, I told him 'Hey, go flat and let's get Conner (Teahan) a three.' And so he did exactly what I asked. He shot it himself."

The end result was the same, however, and the Jayhawks emerged from the locker room with every bit of the momentum they carried into it. Taylor got into the lane at will, flashing past Baylor's guards for buckets of his own or deliveries to waiting teammates.

He scored 14 points in the second half, dished out three assists and - perhaps most importantly - turned it over just once.

"I definitely want to just go out there and be a threat," Taylor said. "I don't want to feel like I'm just another player on the court. I want to be a threat. I want the defender that's guarding me to feel like when I have the ball I can make something happen."

"We've only had one other kid since I've been here who could get the ball into the paint, and that was Sherron (Collins)," Self added. "And Tyshawn does it better than Sherron as far as getting the ball inside. He's so fast."

Don't look now, but this Kansas team which struggled so mightily a month ago in a loss at the Sprint Center in Kansas City to Davidson is on the verge of becoming complete. They play relentless defense, rebound with authority, take - and make - good shots – and make opponents pay for their mistakes.

The previously undefeated Bears are viewed as a legitimate Final Four contender and one of the best teams in the conference, and the Jayhawks viewed the game as an opportunity to make a statement.

Message sent.

"I'm not saying people are sleeping on us or don't think we're good," Taylor said. "But I think people really didn't know what to expect coming from this team. They really didn't know what we had or what we could do."

Maybe not. But they should now.

Still, Self cautioned against putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. The Big 12 schedule is a gauntlet, and there is still a great deal of basketball to be played.

"I think we're one of the best teams (in the league, but we're five games in," he said. "That would have been a big deal for us with aspirations to win the league and not win tonight."

The Jayhawks next travel to Austin, Texas for a Saturday match-up with the Texas Longhorns. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m., and the game will be televised on CBS. Top Stories