Azubuike’s big day propels KU to 64-61 road win over No. 1 Baylor

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett, left, and guard Devon Dotson, right, pressure Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)

Despite rolling through the Big 12 schedule this season, one team has stood in the way of Kansas: the No. 1 Baylor Bears.

In what will certainly be a decisive result in the Big 12 regular season title race, the Jayhawks held on to take care of the Bears 64-61 Saturday afternoon.

After dropping the first matchup at Allen Fieldhouse 67-55 on Jan. 11, KU bounced back Saturday, snapping Baylor’s win streak at 23 games and grabbing another Big 12 road win.

And even though the Bears got off to an early 5-0 start, the Jayhawks bounced back with a quick 9-0 run to take the lead. KU never gave up the lead the rest of the first half, with Baylor going on scoreless stretches and missing free throws (8-for-15).

KU also was able to control the paint, led by senior Udoka Azubuike who paced the Jayhawks with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

However, Baylor went on a late surge to cut the KU lead to 34-31 at halftime.

The Jayhawks were also in foul trouble, with sophomore guard Devon Dotson, junior guard Marcus Garrett and sophomore forward David McCormack picking up three-plus fouls.

KU also led by as much as 11 midway through the second half, but the Bears took a stand with less than five minutes to play.

At the under-four timeout, Baylor cut the lead to 56-53, looking to take its first lead of the game since the 17:17 mark in the first half.

The Bears even cut the lead to 62-58 with 26 seconds left to play, following that up with a 3-pointer from guard MaCio Teague to cut the lead to 62-61.

But KU managed to hold on for the win late and secure a tie with Baylor for the lead in the Big 12 standings.

Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:

• The game turned when:

KU was able to hold off a late Baylor comeback in the last four minutes.

The Jayhawks led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but a late Baylor comeback made things interesting down the home stretch. KU found its lead cut down to three with just a couple minutes to play, and it wasn’t perfect — KU committed late turnovers and Baylor hit big shots inside.

But the Jayhawk defense — led by Azubuike and Garrett — and made free throws down the stretch from Dotson and transfer senior guard Isaiah Moss sealed the narrow victory.

• Offensive highlight:

Near the end of the first half, KU was trying to hold off a resurgent Baylor team. And with 2:57 left, the Jayhawks went to their most reliable option inside — Azuibike.

Dotson received a pass on the wing from Braun. Dotson then received a screen from Azubuike, and as he dribbled to his right, Azubuike rolled inside. Once he saw the big man roll inside, Dotson threw up a pass that Azubuike slammed home over Baylor forward Freddie Gillespie.

Azubuike was once again a dominant force in the paint, shooting 11-for-13 from the field.

• Defensive highlight:

With Baylor and KU being two of the top defensive teams in the nation, it wasn’t surprising to see nearly every shot contested and ultimately a low-scoring game.

And it was Azubuike — the best player for KU on Saturday — who also had the defensive highlight.

Down 58-53 and needing a bucket, Baylor junior guard Mark Vital dribbled inside. Vital turned inside, but instead of an open look, Azubuike met him at the rim for a crucial block with his left hand.

It saved a basket and put an exclamation point for an impressive performance on both ends by Azubuike.

• Up next:

KU comes back home to play Oklahoma State on Monday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.


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