LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson heard all week from people telling her how unfortunate her team was for having to play Baylor after the Bears gave UConn all it could handle in a loss Monday.
Eventually, Henrickson got tired of people writing Kansas off before the game and reminded them that, hey, Kansas had just lost a tough game of its own, this one to Texas.
“We were kind of ornery, too,” Henrickson said. “We were pretty salty about that as well.”
After a sluggish start, Kansas snapped out of its funk and won its first game of the season against a ranked program, sending No. 7 Baylor to its second straight loss, 76-60 Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Chelsea Gardner scored 28 points and Natalie Knight added 18 for the Jayhawks (9-9, 2-4 Big 12).
CeCe Harper added 10 points for Kansas, which defeated Baylor for the first time in nine games. The Jayhawks also ended the Bears’ 44-game regular-season Big 12 winning streak.
Odyssey Sims scored 31 points for the Bears (14-2, 4-1), but she, like the rest of the Bears, struggled shooting and was held to 10 points in the second half.
“The difference was we worked on denying her the ball and not letting her catch it so she wouldn’t have easy touches,” Harper said. “We focused on boxing her out and trying to avoid her getting the passes out on the rebounds.”
Niya Johnson added eight points for Baylor, which lost for the first time in 70 games against unranked opponents and was held 31 points below its season average.
After scoring 21 points in the first half, Sims made only 4 of 19 shots in the second half, and without her the Bears couldn’t do much offensively.
“When it was out of her hands people were taking shots that they weren’t comfortable taking,” Harper said. “She was having to get rid of it a lot more than she’s used to. I think the traps worked well because we were catching her off guard a lot.”
Kansas took control of the game in the final 10 minutes after trading the lead for the first part of the second half. After Baylor took a 45-44 lead, Kansas went on a 32-15 run the rest of the game, highlighted by a layup and free throw from Harper that put Kansas up 12 with 4 minutes left.
While Baylor struggled without Sims’ shot, Kansas received help from a variety of players.
Gardner gave Kansas the lead for good with a pair of free throws, then Asia Boyd scored five straight points to give Kansas all the breathing room it needed for the rest of the game.
“With this group here it’s an opportunity for everybody to contribute,” Henrickson said. “I think sometimes those teams are the most fun because practice is most competitive because everybody’s trying to fight for minutes in a good way.”
The Jayhawks shot 54 percent in the second half, while Baylor shot only 29 percent.
Baylor had an 11-point lead twice in first half, but Kansas cut into that margin both times, even briefly taking the lead after a 9-0 run late in the first half. Ieshia Small converted a layup just before halftime to give the Bears a 32-31 lead at the break.
Sims provided most of Baylor’s offense in the first half, with her teammates combining for only 11 points. Gardner had 13 at the half for Kansas, as both teams other players struggled offensively. The Bears shot 32 percent in the first half, while the Jayhawks shot 34 percent and the teams combined to go 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
Gardner and Knight combined for 12 points during a 17-5 Kansas run to stifle the Bears’ momentum heading into the locker room.
“I came in the game knowing that we could beat them,” Gardner said. “The beginning of the game we weren’t as ready as we should have been. After the first timeout we came ready to fight and play and kept pushing the gas pedal.”