WACO, Texas (AP) — Whatever Tyshawn Taylor and the rest of his Kansas teammates did to motivate 7-foot Jeff Withey certainly worked.
“In practice every day, punching him in his chest, jumping on him, trying to get him fired up,” Taylor said. “He came out and played amazing.”
Withey, coming of a scoreless game, rebounded with a career-high 25 points for the seventh-ranked Jayhawks in another convincing victory over sixth-ranked Baylor, 68-54 on Wednesday night, to regain a share of the Big 12 lead.
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“I don’t know why Withey likes playing against us so much, but he looks like an All-American when he does,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Withey, who finished 8-of-10 shooting and made 9 of 11 free throws, had already surpassed his career high by halftime, when Kansas didn’t lead until the final minute. He then ignited a 14-0 run early in the second half when the Jayhawks (19-5, 9-2 Big 12) took total control of the Top-10 rematch.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who had his own way of motivating Withey, called it was one of the best offensive games by a Kansas big man in quite some time.
“Coach definitely got into my head and just told me that I need to be able to play,” Withey said. “I can’t go games where I don’t score. … My teammates definitely trusted me. They made great plays and got me open.”
Baylor (21-3, 8-3) was 17-0 with the longest winning streak in school history before a 92-74 loss at Kansas just more than three weeks ago. The Bears followed that with a one-point home loss to Missouri, where they play their next game Saturday.
The Jayhawks, coming off a 74-71 loss at fourth-ranked Missouri on Saturday when Withey missed his only shot, grabbed a share of the Big 12 lead with the Tigers. Kansas hasn’t lost consecutive games in more than six years — a span of 228 games since January 2006.
In the Jan. 16 game against Baylor, Taylor and Thomas Robinson had combined for 55 points and both matched career highs for field goals made. Taylor had a career-best 28 points in that game and Robinson had 27.
Taylor finished with 19 points this time, his ninth consecutive game with at least 15. Robinson, the only Big 12 player averaging a double-double, had 15 points with 11 rebounds.
The Jayhawks went ahead for the first time, and to stay, during a 14-3 run over the final 4 minutes of the first half with Robinson sitting on the bench after his second foul.
Withey had already matched his previous career high of 15 points on a free throw with 2 minutes left in the first half to get Kansas within 30-25. He then blocked a shot, which led to a 3-pointer by Conner Teahan. Withey then made a tying layup with 1:34 left.
The Jayhawks finally led on Teahan’s 3-pointer in the final minute for a 33-30 halftime lead.
After the first half-ending spurt, Withey had a turnover to start the second half before Pierre Jackson came away from a scrum on the floor with the ball for a Baylor layup.
Kansas then scored 14 points in a row, a stretch started by Withey’s layup before he added a three-point play.
Withey then had consecutive steals that led to jumpers by Robinson, who fouled making the second basket. He converted the three-point play and it became a seven-point possession when Quincy Miller’s foul was called flagrant after officials looked at replay.
After Withey made the technical free throw, Tyshawn Taylor’s 3-pointer with 16 minutes left pushed Kansas to a 47-32 lead.
“That seven-point possession took a lot out of us,” Jackson said. “We just didn’t answer back after that.”
Jackson led Baylor with 16 points, while Quincy Acy and Cory Jefferson had 11 each.
Baylor worked the already raucous sellout crowd into a frenzy by scoring the first seven points. Self called timeout less than 2 minutes into the game.
The opening play was an alley-oop pass from Jackson to Perry Jones III for a slam dunk. Jackson then penetrated for a short floater, and the Bears were up 7-0 when Jackson had another assist, a bounce pass to Quincy Miller for a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Neither Jones, the preseason Big 12 player of the year, or Miller had another field goal. Miller came out for good after his flagrant foul with 16:38 left.
After making its first three shots, Baylor missed the next five and Kansas got even at 7-all when Withey made two free throws. But the Bears pushed back ahead 19-9 after Jackson’s alley-oop pass to Acy for another rim-rattling dunk that reignited the fans, before Jackson stole the ball from Withey and scored on a baseline floater.
“We’re all embarrassed and disappointed by our play,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Up 10 with 9:41 to go, and really the end of the first half was the beginning of the turning point. … We should have finished with momentum going into the locker room. We didn’t.”