WACO, Texas — Kansas has had a knack for surviving hard-fought, back-and-forth Big 12 games all season and added a big one versus Baylor.
Jayhawks forward Landon Lucas stepped to the line and nailed two free throws with 11 seconds left to lift No. 3 Kansas to a 67-65 victory over No. 4 Baylor on Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
The Jayhawks (24-3, 12-2 Big 12) trailed by six late, but finished the game on an 8-0 run to knock off Baylor (22-5, 9-5) on the Bears’ home court.
After Kansas erased a seven-point deficit in the final minute against West Virginia on Monday, the Jayhawks notched another win over Baylor in similar fashion.
“The thing I like about us is that I think we’ve got a bunch of winners on our team,” Kansas guard Josh Jackson said. “Nobody is a quitter and everybody keeps fighting and we all believe in each other.”
Kansas’s survival instinct is a big reason why the Jayhawks now lead the Big 12 by three games with four contests left in the regular season.
“At the beginning it was just all about taking it one game at a time,” Jackson said. “I feel like we’ve been doing a good job of doing that. Just taking it one game at a time and taking care of business and we’re in a great position right now.”
Baylor is still in second place in the conference standings, but the Bears need a Jayhawks collapse to have a shot at a share of the Big 12 title.
Guard Frank Mason III finished with 23 points and Jackson added 16 to lead Kansas.
Forward Johnathan Motley scored 19 points to lead Baylor. Guard Manu Lecomte pitched in 16 and forward Jo Lual-Acuil added 11.
Lucas grabbed a crucial offensive rebound of guard Devonte’ Graham’s missed 3-pointer with 11 seconds left. Motley fouled Lucas on the put-back attempt, sending the Kansas forward to the line for the game-winning free throws.
“Coach said (Lucas) was the only one crashing the glass on the final possession,” Mason said. “I watch him shoot free throws every day. He knocks a lot of them down and shoots a good percentage. So I had a lot of confidence in him.”
Kansas denied Baylor’s attempt to get the ball inside to Motley on the Bears’ final possession. Lecomte took a desperation 3-pointer with Mason and Jackson in his face, but the shot came up short.
“We were trying to get it to Motley and they did a good job of helping down,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “When they took that away, we wish we could have gotten a better look and a better shot in the last seven seconds. They deserve the credit on taking away (Motley) down low.”
Kansas wrested the lead and momentum from Baylor midway through the second half with an 11-0 surge. The Jayhawks, who trailed for most of the first half, went ahead 52-47 when forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk hit a 3-pointer from the left side with 10:18 remaining.
But Baylor bounced back by scoring the next nine points to retake the lead by four when Lual-Acuil hit a pair of free throws.
Guard King McClure hit a pair of free throws to put Baylor ahead by six with 3:34 remaining. But that would be the Bears’ final points and Kansas took over after that.
“It’s real disappointing, especially when you kind of have them on the ropes,” Motley said. “We were up a couple of points and there was a stretch when offensive rebounds were their strength.”
Jackson had a pair of baskets, including a dunk on an assist from Mason, and Graham tied the game at 65 with a pair of free throws with 2:16 left.
Baylor and Kansas hit each other with significant runs in the first half.
After Baylor pushed out to a 15-6 lead, Kansas responded with a 9-0 surge to tie it. Mason made his first jumper of the contest, then dished to Jackson for a dunk and Lucas for a layup that evened the score.
Then it was the Bears’ turn. Lecomte hit a pair of 3-pointers to fuel an 8-0 run that helped Baylor re-establish the lead for the rest of the half.
The Bears led by 12 when Lecomte hit a jumper from just inside the free-throw line with 55 seconds left before the break. But Mason nailed his first 3-pointer and Jackson hit a trey just before the halftime buzzer as the Jayhawks cut Baylor’s lead to six.
“The two biggest possession of the game, other than the last one, were the two 3’s we made at the end of the half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If they have it at 12, they have total control of momentum.”
Kansas shot 38 percent from the field in the first half, but kept Baylor from pulling away by scoring nine points off of the Bears’ seven turnovers.
Lecomte led all scorers with 11 in the first half as he hit 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
— Baylor was hosting a top-10 opponent for the third time this season. Previously, the Bears defeated then-No. 4 Oregon and then-No. 7 Xavier in nonconference play.
— Kansas was facing its second-straight top-10 opponent after the Jayhawks defeated No. 9 West Virginia 84-80 on Monday in Lawrence, Kan. It’s the second time this season Kansas has played back-to-back top 10s. The Jayhawks defeated then-No. 4 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Baylor on Jan. 28 and Feb. 1.
— Baylor Guard Al Freeman returned after he was suspended for the previous three games due to a violation of team policy. He did not see any action.