Baylor-Kansas Preview


Kansas continues to beat back all comers in the Big 12 tournament.

Baylor is the lone exception.

The No. 3 Jayhawks go for their eighth consecutive conference tournament win in Friday night's semifinal round in Kansas City, but to get it they'll have to overcome the No. 12 Bears, the last team that defeated them in this tourney.

Since the inception of the conference in 1996-97, the Big 12 tournament has often appeared to be a Jayhawks invitational. Kansas (27-5) has won the title in eight of 15 years, including the past three.

The top-seeded Jayhawks rolled to their seventh consecutive win in conference tourney action Thursday, beating Texas A&M 83-66 for their ninth straight victory overall.

Kansas has defeated 10 of its 11 rivals in Big 12 tournament play. The only foe it hasn't knocked off is Baylor (26-6), which took the only meeting between the schools in this tournament, 71-64 in a 2009 quarterfinal matchup.

That contest stands as the last conference tourney loss for the Jayhawks, as well as the only time they've ever dropped their Big 12 tournament opener.

The defeat also surely weighs on the mind of Kansas coach Bill Self, despite the fact his team took both meetings with Baylor this season by margins of 18 and 14 points.

"They're so talented, it's a joke," Self said of the Bears following Thursday's win. "It'll be an interesting next 24 hours to get ready."

Self's Jayhawks were certainly no joke in the victory over the Aggies. Elijah Johnson scored a career-high 26 points, 15 of them on 3-pointers. Forward Thomas Robinson went 2 for 2 from beyond the arc and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double.

Tyshawn Taylor added 16 points and Jeff Withey had 11 with four blocks for Kansas, which shot 10 of 15 from 3-point range and 61.4 percent overall.

"They demand so much help with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey that we left some guys open on the perimeter, and when they make 10 3s and Robinson hits two 3s, they're a very difficult team to beat for anybody," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.

The fourth-seeded Bears went 8-6 over their final 14 regular-season games following a 17-0 start but appeared ready for postseason play Thursday with an 82-74 quarterfinal victory over Kansas State. The win was especially sweet for sophomore forward Perry Jones III - suspended by the NCAA prior to last year's Big 12 tourney - who made up for lost time with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11-of-14 shooting in his postseason debut.

"I told Perry after the game, 'Man, keep being who you are,'" Kansas State coach Frank Martin said of Jones, whose suspension because of a mortgage loan his mother had accepted two years earlier also kept him out of the first five games of 2011-12.

"Don't give in to perception and public nonsense. Be who you are, man. He's a beautiful kid and he represents class and he's a very talented player."

Like Kansas, the Bears showed terrific shooting touch in the quarterfinals, converting at a 56.9-percent clip. Guards Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson had 15 and 13 points, respectively, to complement Jones' effort.

Jones had five points while shooting 1 of 8 in a 68-54 home loss to the Jayhawks on Feb. 8, but he scored a team-high 18 on Jan. 16 during a 92-74 defeat in Lawrence.

Taylor had 28 points and Robinson added 27 with 14 rebounds for Kansas in that victory.

Johnson had 11 points for the Jayhawks in the home win but went scoreless while missing six shots in last month's rematch at Waco.

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