Kansas takes on Baylor in Big 12 battle
(AP) -- Kansas has opened Big 12 play with a pair of wins, but coach Bill Self's team hasn't exactly looked like a squad going for a ninth straight regular-season league title.
The sixth-ranked Jayhawks understand they'll need to play better with Baylor up next.
Kansas will try to extend its longest winning streak in two seasons to 14 on Monday night when a first win by the Bears in Lawrence would give them their second straight 4-0 start in league play.
After needing a Ben McLemore banked-in 3-pointer with one second left just to force overtime in Wednesday's 97-89 league-opening victory over Iowa State, Kansas (14-1) was far from its best in Saturday's 60-46 win at Texas Tech, making five first-half field goals - none in the final 11-plus minutes before halftime - in its lowest-scoring game of the season.
"We know every game coming out is going to be tough because we're a team that every team wants to beat because of what we've done in the past," senior guard Travis Releford said.
Self doesn't want the Jayhawks to dwell on Saturday. Instead, he's trying to keep their focus on a 17th consecutive Big 12 home win and improving to 11-0 with the Bears in town. Kansas ended the Bears' school-record 17-0 start with a 92-74 victory at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 16.
"I want them to forget about (the last game)," said Self, whose team is riding its longest surge since an 18-0 start to the 2010-11 season. "There are things we may learn from them and show them five minutes of edit clips or whatever. But we need to put our focus on Baylor. To me, I don't know how you guys feel, but we look like a tired team. So we need to get our batteries recharged. I'm sure we will for Monday night. We're playing a really talented team."
Self no longer has to worry about forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy, who are now in the NBA after helping the Bears defeat Kansas 81-72 in the Big 12 conference tournament semifinal last March, but Baylor again has two of the top big men in the conference to complement senior guard Pierre Jackson, the league's top scorer with 19.2 points per contest.
Junior forward Cory Jefferson, who is shooting a Big 12-best 63.4 percent, is averaging 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, while 7-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin is fifth in the league in scoring (14.6 ppg) and third in rebounds (5.9)
The Bears are outscoring their opponents in the paint by an average of 9.4 points, and they set a team record for fewest points allowed in a Big 12 game in Saturday's 51-40 victory over TCU.
"They cause a lot of problems with their length, their skill level," Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson said.
Kansas, though, can counter with 7-foot center Jeff Withey and forward Kevin Young, both seniors.
Withey, who finished with a career-best 25 points in a 68-54 road win versus then-No. 6 Baylor on Feb. 8, is averaging career highs with 13.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 blocks, which is second-best in the nation. He's tied for the Big 12 lead with six double-doubles, one more than Austin and two more than Jefferson.
Young (four rebounds) didn't come close to posting a third straight double-double on Saturday, but he finished with a team-best 14 points, including eight of the Jayhawks' first 14 following their uninspired first half.
"We have to pick it up before Monday," Young said.
Kansas is 18-3 all-time against Baylor.