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Baylor helps postseason hopes, routs Kansas 81-58

The SportsXchange

By Chad Conine, The Sports Xchange

WACO, Texas -- Given one last chance to show some life before the postseason, the Baylor Bears roared past No. 3 Kansas in both teams' regular-season finale.

Baylor's Pierre Jackson and Cory Jefferson combined for 53 points to lead a Bears team that played with abandon in defeating the Jayhawks, 81-58, on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.

Baylor entered the game just 1-5 this season against ranked foes and had scarcely beaten anyone in the top half of the Big 12 standings. Short of winning the Big 12 Tournament, it appeared going into the Kansas game that Baylor would be left out of the NCAA Tournament.

There's a week remaining until Baylor finds out its postseason fate, but with Heisman-trophy-winning-alum Robert Griffin III watching from behind the bench, Baylor (18-13, 9-9 Big 12) finally posted a marquee win.

"Baylor needed this game today," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think this will definitely put them in the field. I really do."

Jackson scored a game-high 28 points and added 10 assists, constantly causing problems for the Kansas defense.

Jefferson further perplexed the Jayhawks by hitting outside shots, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. He and Jackson combined to make 22 of 26 field goal attempts.

"Today he did a great thing," Baylor coach Scott Drew said of Jefferson. "(Kansas center Jeff) Withey was guarding him and he's a great shot-blocker. He was backed off of him. If you're not going to guard him, Cory is going to take the shot."

Baylor guard Brady Heslip nailed a 3-pointer to cap a 12-2 Bears run early in the second half that gave Baylor a 15-point lead and the Jawhawks struggled to climb back into it.

Kansas' Perry Ellis made a layup to cut Baylor's lead to 61-55 with 6:27 remaining. But Baylor answered with a 9-0 run and Kansas scored just three points the rest of the way.

For the most part, Kansas played like a team without much to gain. The Jayhawks (26-5, 14-4 Big 12) knew going into their game with Baylor that they had at least a share of the Big 12 regular season championship by virtue of Kansas State's loss to Oklahoma State earlier in the day. Kansas has now won or shared nine consecutive Big 12 regular season titles.

"It doesn't feel like we won it at all, really," Withey said.

Self said he would have expected the relief of having at least a share of the Big 12 title going into the game to allow his team to play looser. But he also said the day could have ended worse.

"I'm a lot happier than I would be if it was different and we finished second," Self said.

Kansas might not have expected to see the Baylor team it faced Saturday, especially since this version of the Bears featured a 3-point-shooting Jefferson.

After the 6-9 forward got Baylor going with a couple of dunks in the first half, Jefferson really heated up the crowd by sinking shots from beyond the arc. Jefferson made the first 3-pointer of his Baylor career midway through the first half and then kept making them.

By the time Jefferson made his third 3 in as many attempts, Baylor led the Jayhawks, 46-34, with 17:04 left in the second half.

"It's something I've been doing in practice and I figured I would do it in a game," Jefferson said. "Coach gave me the green light after I made the second one."

Jackson and Jefferson put on a show to ignite the home crowd in the first half as the Bears took a 37-28 lead to intermission.

Jefferson's dunk on an assist from A.J. Walton punctuated Baylor's early 10-2 run that gave the Bears a 10-4 lead.

Jackson kept the Bears going as he went on a 7-0 run by himself, hitting a jumper, a 3-pointer and going to the hoop for a basket on three-straight trips down the floor to stretch Baylor's lead to 8.

Kansas' Elijah Johnson answered with a 7-0 run of his own, matching Jackson and helping the Jayhawks' attempt to keep pace with the the energized Bears.

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore led the Jayhawks with 23 points.

NOTES: Despite the loss, Kansas kept its Big 12 championship streak alive. By tying Kansas State for the Big 12 regular season title, the Jayhawks have now won nine straight conference regular season championships. Kansas swept the season series against Kansas State and will be the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament. ... Kansas fell to 19-4 all-time against Baylor and 8-2 in Waco. ... Two of Baylor's four wins against the Jayhawks came at the Big 12 Tournament, including an 81-72 victory in the conference tournament semifinals last season. ... Baylor improved to 2-5 against ranked opponents this season and snapped a five-game losing streak against ranked foes. ... Baylor celebrated senior day for starting guards A.J. Walton and Pierre Jackson and reserve forward Jacob Neubert.

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