Baylor University’s basketball team, which has dropped seven straight Big 12 road games, likely won’t be lacking in confidence tonight in Allen Fieldhouse.
The No. 25-ranked Bears return four players (Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn, Anthony Jones and Josh Lomers) off a team that beat KU, 71-64, in last year’s Big 12 Tournament.
They also return three players off a squad that dropped an ultra-competitive, highly entertaining 100-90 decision to KU two seasons ago in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I think anytime you have a positive experience, you can learn from it and grow from it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said, referring to the Feb. 9, 2008, shootout in Allen. “We have several players who played in that game. At the same time, it’s a different season, a different year. We know for us to go there and do well, there’s certain things we have to do and it starts with defending and rebounding.”
Baylor hit 12 of 29 threes, while KU was 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in that 2008 slugfest.
“I think the biggest challenge is the team they have,” Drew said. “Coach (Bill) Self has done another great job. They have not come out and overlooked people. They’ve played hard, competed and gotten better. It’s why people picked them No. 1 (in preseason) and for the most part have been No. 1 in the nation.”
No. 3-ranked KU enters at 16-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12; Baylor is 14-2, 2-1.
The Bears, who have beaten Xavier, Arizona State, Arkansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and lost to Alabama and Colorado, boast double-digit scorers in Dunn (19.1 ppg, 56 of 136 from three), Carter (15.6 ppg) and Ekpe Udoh (14.1 ppg, 11.4 rpg).
“I knew they’d be good. They’ve probably surpassed a lot of people’s expectations on how well they’ve played,” KU coach Self said. “They lost (Kevin) Rogers, (Henry) Dugat and (Curtis) Jerrells and (Mamadou) Diene inside. They’ve gotten better.”
The Jayhawks and Bears rank one-two in the Big 12 in field-goal-percentage defense at 35.5 and 36.0 percent respectively.
“They are playing a 2-3 zone a majority of possessions. They caught lightning in a bottle playing it late in the season last year and really hurt us with it in the Big 12 tournament,” Self said. “It is really an effective zone in large part because of their length. It is long and makes you think.”
The Bears start three trees in 6-10 Udoh, 6-10 Anthony Jones and 7-0 Josh Lomers. Udoh, who hails from Edmond, Okla., is a transfer from the University of Michigan. He and KU’s Cole Aldrich rank 1-2 in the league in blocks with 71 and 62 respectively.
“Coach (Tommy) Amaker did a great job recruiting him (Udoh). When he (Amaker) left, he wanted to transfer,” Drew said. “I know a lot of schools hoped he wanted to come close to home. It turned out he did. He saw we had good perimeter play and knew we needed help on the frontline.
“Last year in practice, everybody knew he was a good defender and shot blocker. He spent the year working on his offensive game. He’s been able to surprise some people on both ends of the court.”
Of Udoh, Self said: “He has improved and matured as much since high school as any kid around. He has gotten a lot better, and his body is definitely changing. I am amazed how big he is. It’ll be a challenge for our big guys going against their big guys. They have size we’ll have to deal with.”
Dandy Dunn: In two games in the state of Kansas, BU’s Dunn averages 28.0 ppg off 18-of-28 shooting (.643), including 14 of 22 from three (.636). Dunn hit a school-record nine threes and scored 33 points in an 83-65 victory last season at K-State. He hit five threes and had 23 points against KU in ’08 in Allen. In five career games against KU (20.0 ppg) and Kansas State (24.5 ppg), Dunn averages 21.8 points off 34-of-57 shooting (.596). He’s 24 of 41 (.585) from three.
This, that: Baylor is 6-43 in its last 49 Big 12 road games, including a 5-12 mark over the previous two seasons (1-7 last season). ... BU has won 74 games over the last three-plus seasons and needs one win to set the school record for most wins during a four-year stretch. From 1945-49, Baylor won 74 games and made two NCAA Tournament appearances. ... Baylor is 2-3 (.400) on the road when nationally ranked in either poll. ... KU leads the all-time series 14-2. BU snapped an eight-game losing streak to KU in last year’s Big 12 Tournament.