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Baylor-Kansas Preview

AP - Sports

Big 12 play has sent Kansas and Baylor in entirely different directions.

The No. 8 Jayhawks have won four straight and look to continue rolling while improving to 12-0 against the struggling 24th-ranked Bears in Lawrence on Monday night.

Kansas (13-4, 4-0) is the only unbeaten team in the league with its last three wins coming against ranked opponents.

"Definitely, I feel like we're sending a message," guard Naadir Tharpe said. "Even though we have a lot of young guys on the team, we're here to play. We're here to defend our title. I feel like we have a great chance of doing it."

Baylor (13-4, 1-3) has dropped consecutive games for the first time this season and finds itself as one of two teams in the league with one conference win or less. Coach Scott Drew expects things to even out.

"I think any team who loses no matter what you say, they are affected. You can say we're going to come out and they'll be (ticked) off," Drew said. "It's just basketball. There's parity. When you are winning, you've got swag and things are going better. When you are losing, you just can't second-guess yourself."

The Jayhawks have won back-to-back games against top-10 opponents, defeating then-No. 9 Oklahoma State 80-78 at home Saturday. Kansas jumped seven spots in this week's Top 25.

Tharpe had 21 points and shot 7 of 8 to lead the way as top scorers Andrew Wiggins (15.1 ppg) and Perry Ellis (12.9) were held to a combined nine.

Tharpe, a junior starting alongside four underclassmen, has had the two highest totals of his career in back-to-back games after scoring a career-high 23 Monday at Iowa State.

"Sometimes you scratch your head with some of the decisions he makes," coach Bill Self said. "But he played extremely well, and of course he made some big shots."

The enigmatic guard has gone 14 of 17 from the floor in his last two games.

Freshman center Joel Embiid has matched that efficiency. He had 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks against Oklahoma State and is 12 of 14 from the field in his last two.

The Jayhawks are shooting 53.8 percent in conference play while holding opponents to 39.3 percent.

Baylor's problems continued in a 66-64 home loss to No. 25 Oklahoma on Saturday. The Bears are shooting 41.9 percent in Big 12 play and yielding a mark of 48.2, a reversal of their 50.4 field-goal percentage and 38.8 allowed during a 12-1 non-conference start.

Guard Kenny Chery had a team-high 16 points against the Sooners. He's averaging 19.0 in his last two games after scoring a career-best 22 in an 82-72 loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday.

The Bears, who plummeted 12 spots in the poll this week, now shift their attention to winning at Kansas for the first time.

"It shouldn't be tough to refocus," forward Cory Jefferson said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing. If you're us, and like you said we haven't had a lot of success, it shouldn't mean anything. We can go up there and change that with the way we go out and play. If it's Kansas, it doesn't mean anything either. They know they've got to come out and play just as ready as we do."

Jefferson, who leads the team with 13.1 points per game, has struggled some in conference play, averaging 9.3 points on 38.7 percent shooting.

Baylor and Kansas split the 2012-13 season series. Jefferson scored 25 in the most recent meeting, leading the Bears to an 81-58 win March 9.

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