Baylor ends regular season by beating No. 4 Kansas
Cory Jefferson had his usual powerful dunks for Baylor. The big forward also showed his long-range touch.
Jefferson and senior point guard Pierre Jackson, the Big 12's leading scorer, provided quite a 1-2 punch that kept fourth-ranked Kansas from an outright regular-season conference title.
"Two players played about as well as any two players against us in a long, long time off the same team," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Jackson scored 28 points with 10 assists in his last regular-season game for Baylor and Jefferson had 25 points, including some dunks with his first three made 3-pointers in his career, as the Bears won 81-58 on Saturday night and left Kansas to share the Big 12 title with rival Kansas State.
"We were just focused. We knew what was at stake, we know how big this game was," Jackson said. "We handled business."
Kansas (26-5, 14-4 Big 12) had a share of the conference title even before Ben McLemore scored a layup off the opening tip.
That ended up being the only lead the Jayhawks had, and as close as they came to claiming the outright league title on the final day of the regular season.
Baylor (18-13, 9-9) led throughout after scoring the next six points, including a rim-rattling two-handed slam by Jefferson, and could still have a chance for an at-large NCAA berth with a couple of wins in the conference tournament next week.
"This is big-time for us. We needed it," Jackson said. "You've just got to keep going. You really don't have any other choice but to keep getting better and keep playing like we did tonight."
Baylor, which went to an NCAA regional final last season, had lost six of its previous seven games and was already locked in as the No. 6 seed in the Big 12 tournament. The Bears play Oklahoma State on Thursday night in Kansas City - they split their two regular-season matchups.
"It's a great time for us to prove a point that we're a good team and we're capable of making a deep run in the tournament like we did last year," Jackson said.
When ninth-ranked Kansas State lost 76-70 earlier Saturday at No. 13 Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks were assured at least a share of the regular-season title.
"I'll be candid with you: I was excited and knew that we got piece," coach Bill Self said. "I thought we would play better because we knew we did. Because there would be no pressure, total freedom, confidence going out and it didn't work out that way for us. We got off to a rough start."
Instead, the Jayhawks suffered their worst loss in seven years, since a 25-point setback to Texas in February 2006.
McLemore led Kansas with 23 points.
Kansas used an 11-0 run in the second half to get within 61-55 with 6:23 left after consecutive baskets by Perry Ellis, who finished with 12 points.
But Jackson then stole a ball from McLemore and drove for a layup made between two defenders. After Ellis missed a shot, Jackson got the ball and made a pass ahead to Brady Heslip for an easy layup.
The Bears kept piling on after that.
"It doesn't feel like we've won it at all. We tied Kansas State," said Jeff Withey, one of four Kansas seniors in the starting lineup with standout freshman McLemore. "It's cool to win, obviously. To win nine in a row is huge. But it just stinks to lose."
The Jayhawks will still be the No. 1 seed for next week's conference tournament in Kansas City.
Kansas, which has won an NCAA-best 56 overall conference regular-season titles, plays Thursday against the West Virginia-Texas Tech winner.
Jefferson had a pair of early dunks before hitting the first 3-pointer of his career for a 22-13 lead. The 6-foot-9 forward was 0 for 7 from long range before that.
"It's something I've been doing in practice, and I just figured I might as well do it in a game," Jefferson said.
Jackson and Jefferson both made 11 of 13 field goals - Jefferson made all three of his 3-pointers. A.J. Walton added 12 points for Baylor and Isaiah Austin had 11 for Baylor.
Jefferson had 18 points by halftime, including a 3-pointer for the last points of the half. That came on the possession right after he took a charging foul that wiped out a basket by Elijah Johnson.
"Cory was O-for for his career and now I think we'll have to design some plays for him to get him 3-point shots," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Cory makes 3s in practice and works on them. ... If you don't go out and guard him, Cory is going to shoot the 3 and he was on fire."