The biggest men's basketball game of the 2019-20 regular season so far — and no, that's not hyperbole — took place Saturday. AP No. 1 Baylor (24-2) fell at home for the first time this season, losing 64-61 to AP No. 3 Kansas (24-3) in a rematch of a game that the Bears won by 12 points in Lawrence in mid-January.
In the first game, it was the small-ball style of the Bears that spread the floor, created mismatches and propelled Baylor to a win. Since that day, neither neither team had lost a game before Saturday. KU rattled off 11 wins while Baylor’s streak surged to 23 consecutive victories. In the rematch, the Jayhawks adapted with a four-guard set of their own to neutralize Baylor’s athleticism and spacing. But the size of center Udoka Azubuike was the difference maker for Kansas.
The top-ranked Bears had no answer for the Jayhawks' 7-footer. Azubuike controlled not just the block, but the entire lane. He showed an ability to block and alter shots, pull down rebounds at both ends of the floor while creating space for others or slipping screens to create for himself. Azubuike's dominance led to eight dunks as he finished with 23 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks.
Before Saturday, Baylor had looked near-invincible at home. The Bears had only trailed for 12:38 in the Ferrell Center this season. Against Kansas, they trailed for more than 35 minutes while holding the lead for just over three. The Jayhawks' defensive change created fewer open looks than the first meeting. When the Bears were open, they struggled to convert, shooting under 40 percent with comparable trouble at the free throw line, where they were 8-of-15. Defensively, Baylor had a hard time containing Azubuike, which resulted in just the seventh time this season an opponent has outscored Baylor in the paint.
Despite trailing by as many as 11 points, the Bears had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer, but Jared Butler's attempt was short.
Kansas at Baylor: Scores, live updates
Two of college basketball's hottest teams went head-to-head with No. 3 Kansas avenging a Jan. 11 loss to Baylor with a 64-61 win in Waco over the top-ranked Bears. The Jayhawks played primarily four-guard sets to match Baylor's backcourt and wing athleticism. The purpose of this switch was more defensive, which proved effective as Baylor shot under 40 percent. But the offensive impact was even greater. KU shot 60 percent inside the 3-point line – well above the 42.5 percent average Baylor has allowed this season.
Udoka Azubuike led all scorers with 23 points, one of three Jayhawks to finish with double digit points, in addition to Devon Dotson (13) and Isaiah Moss (11). Sophomore guard Jared Butler had a team-high 19 points for Baylor.
FINAL |Kansas 64, Baylor 61
Bill Self opted to have his team defend after two made free throws by Moss. Butler got a clean look at the horn but his shot hit the front iron. Baylor loses for the first time since November and first place in the Big 12 standings is now a two-way tie between Baylor and Kansas.
0:18 2H |Kansas 62, Baylor 61
Baylor trailed by seven with 34 seconds to go. Butler rattled home a 3 in transition before Teague knocked down another off a turnover to make this a one-point game in the closing seconds.
3:37 2H |Kansas 56, Baylor 53
Baylor's made five of its last eight shots, taking advantage of Azubuike being off the floor momentarily to cut Kansas' lead to three. Jared Butler has five of the Bears' last 11 points, with Gillespie, Mitchell and Mark Vital chipping in for the rest.
7:48 2H |Kansas 52, Baylor 44
Bill Self used a timeout following a made jumper by Jared Butler. Baylor's had opportunity on the offensive end to cut into the deficit, but the Bears have had no answer for Azubuike. He's up to 21 points (eight dunks) and 13 rebounds, doing most of his damage by rolling to the basket off screens.
11:42 2H |Kansas 48, Baylor 37
The Jayhawks have opened the game up on the back of an 7-0 run and lead by double digits following a corner jumper from Christian Braun. Kansas is 7-of-11 shooting this half, compared to a 3-of-14 clip for Baylor.
18:12 2H |Kansas 38, Baylor 31
Back-to-back interior baskets for Kansas forced Scott Drew to call a timeout. Isaiah Moss got the step on Mayer and finished at the rim before Garrett threw the lob for Azubuike's fifth dunk of the game.
HALF |Kansas 34, Baylor 31
Baylor went close to five minutes without making a field goal. But then Gillespie, Butler and Davion Mitchell all found the bottom of the net in the final 1:27. Despite Kansas shooting over 53 percent for the half, the Jayhawks lead by three with Baylor taking momentum into the locker room. Here's a look at the first-half statistics.
3:52 1H |Kansas 30, Baylor 21
Kansas has hit seven of its last nine shots. Udoka Azubuike made four of them and has been very difficult to contain on the low block. His last dunk put him into double figures with 11 points, leading all scorers. Baylor has one make over its past seven attempts.
6:57 1H |Kansas 22, Baylor 18
Jared Butler used a screen at the top of the key to lose Garrett and buried a 3 before the defensive recovery came. It was Baylor's first made shot outside the paint in almost eight minutes and gave the Bears some life offensively as Matthew Mayer came off the bench for a quick eight points. Kansas continues to find its spots. The Jayhawks have been able to create space off the ball and off the dribble, shooting almost 59 percent for the half.
15:38 1H |Kansas 9, Baylor 5
Baylor came out firing getting a quick 3 from Teague and a mid-range shot from Freddie Gillespie. Since then, they're 0-for-3 with three turnovers during a 9-0 Kansas run, paced by five points by Marcus Garrett. This is Baylor's largest home deficit of the 2019-20 season.
Pregame | 11:40 a.m.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said on ESPN's 'College GameDay' that guard MaCio Teague will 'give it a shot' against No. 3 Kansas after missing the past two games with a wrist injury. Teague had 16 points in the Bears' road win over the Jayhawks. Kansas owns a historic edge in this series (32-6), but Baylor's success at home this year gives it an advantage of its own. The Bears are 12-0 in the Ferrell Center and have yet to trail a home game by more than two points. In fact, Baylor has trailed at home for under 13 minutes this season.
Kansas at Baylor: Time, TV channel, how to watch
Baylor will host Kansas at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 22. The game will be on ESPN and it can be streamed on WatchESPN.
Kansas at Baylor: Preview, prediction
Despite Baylor's No. 1 standing in the AP poll, undefeated record in the continental U.S. (its only loss was in Anchorage, Alaska) and its double-digit, head-to-head win at Kansas, it's the Jayhawks that some models — at least those behind kenpom.com — have ranked No. 1 in the country.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Kansas ranks No. 10 in offensive efficiency and No. 2 defensively. The Jayhawks have All-America candidates at point guard (Devon Dotson) and center (Udoka Azubuike).
Baylor, with its frequent four-guard lineups, ranks No. 22 on offense and No. 3 defensively, and both teams favor a slower pace compared to the national average, so be ready for a game where the winning team might barely break the 60-point mark.
The last time these two teams met, Baylor took great care of the ball (just five turnovers) and hit eight 3-pointers at a 42-percent clip. All five starters played at least 31 minutes (its bench combined for just 27 minutes) and four of them scored in double figures, led by Jared Butler's 22 points.
For Kansas, Dotson and Azubuike combined for just 15 points — as many as the team's leading scorer, Isaiah Moss, chipped in off the bench — while starting forward David McCormack was held scoreless. The Jayhawks' 3-point shooting, which has been a weakness at times this season, reared its ugly head as they made just 4-of-15 threes.
Marcus Garrett, who's one of the best defenders in the country, scored 11 points, but committed four turnovers and four fouls without a single steal or block. Keep an eye on how he plays in the rematch and if Baylor tries to limit his impact defensively by using the player he's guarding as a decoy who's away from the action.
Kansas grabbed a higher percentage of offensive and defensive rebounds than Baylor in the loss, which will be critical on Saturday because the Bears rank fifth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage at 36.5 percent. They're below-average on their 2-point attempts but they grab so many of their misses that the missed shots don't necessarily affect their offense.
In a season that many observers have said lacks an elite team or teams, this matchup arguably provides two of them and if they are to meet for a third (or fourth) time this season, it'll be in a high-stakes postseason game where both teams have lots of film on each other.
Prediction: Baylor defeats Kansas