Udoka Azubuike, No. 3 Kansas Topple No. 1 Baylor 64-61 in Crucial Big 12 Clash

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2020

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike flexes after a dunk against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)
Ray Carlin/Associated Press

The No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks ended the Baylor Bears' 23-game winning streak with a 64-61 victory at the Ferrell Center on Saturday.

In addition to snapping Baylor's Big 12-record streak, Kansas tied the nation's top-ranked team atop the conference standings (13-1) with four games remaining in the regular season for both teams.

The Jayhawks earned a measure of revenge after Baylor won the first meeting between these two teams 67-55 at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 11.

Udoka Azubuike was an unstoppable force on both ends in the win. He recorded his fourth double-double in the past six games and had a season-high 19 rebounds.

The Baylor offense struggled until the final six minutes of the game. The Bears had a chance to tie the score at the end of regulation, but Jared Butler's three-point attempt hit the front of the rim.


Notable Stats

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  • Udoka Azubuike, KU: 23 points, 19 rebounds, 3 blocks
  • Devon Dotson, KU: 13 points, 3 assists
  • Isaiah Moss, KU: 11 points, 3 rebounds
  • Jared Butler: Baylor: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Freddie Gillespie, Baylor: 10 points, 7 rebounds
  • Matthew Mayer, Baylor: 10 points, 3 rebounds


Azubuike, Defense Carry Jayhawks to Victory

One problem for the Jayhawks in their January loss to Baylor was Azubuike's limited involvement. The senior star scored just six points on 3-of-6 shooting in 32 minutes.

Kansas doesn't need Azubuike to dominate every game because guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji are better shot-creators. But the 7-footer proved yet again he's capable of taking over in a big spot. He dropped 29 in the Jayhawks' 90-84 overtime win against Dayton on Nov. 27.

Saturday was Azubuike's crowning moment of the season. He was the only Kansas player to score in double figures in the first half (13 points) and recorded a double-double with almost 16 minutes remaining in the second half.

It's gotten lost in the wake of Baylor's winning streak, but Kansas took off after the first meeting between these teams. It has won 12 consecutive games, with Azubuike averaging 13.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game during this streak.

If this is the version of Azubuike that head coach Bill Self and Co. are going to get for the remainder of the season, the Jayhawks will be one of the most difficult teams to beat in the NCAA tournament.

Even though the Baylor defense has deservedly received acclaim for its performance this season, Kansas proved it can match anyone on that end of the court. The Jayhawks entered Saturday ranked fourth in the nation, allowing a 43.3 effective field-goal percentage; the Bears weren't far behind in seventh at 43.5 percent.

The Kansas defense swarmed Baylor, holding it to 39.7 percent shooting and 7-of-20 from three-point range.

This is the version of Kansas everyone expected when it started the season ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press poll.


Baylor's 2nd-Half Surge Comes Up Short

Baylor struggled to break through against the Kansas defense and faced a 54-44 deficit with 6:38 remaining.

The Jayhawks at that point had nearly equaled what the Bears give up on average for full games:

From that point on, though, the Bears finally started to look like the team that has been ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 for the last month. They cut the deficit to three by going on a 9-2 run.

But Adubuike and Marcus Garrett gave Kansas breathing room by scoring four straight points. The final ray of hope for Baylor came when MaCio Teague sank a three with 18 seconds remaining to make it 62-61.

After Isaiah Moss made two free throws on Kansas' ensuing possession, Butler had a decent look, but his attempt was short.

Even though the result wasn't what Baylor wanted, the team made the game competitive when little was going right and Kansas was playing as well as it has all season.

Scott Drew and his staff will be able to learn from this game heading into the home stretch. The Bears have only one more matchup against a ranked opponent—at No. 17 West Virginia on March 7—so their path to at least a share of a regular-season conference title for the first time since 1949-50 is clear.


What's Next?

Baylor will host Kansas State on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. Kansas will return home for a matchup with Oklahoma State on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.


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