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March 9, 2013

KU falls, but claims ninth straight title

Needing to win its final regular season game of the year to win the Big 12 regular season championship outright, No. 4/3 Kansas couldn't overcome Baylor's hot start, and suffered its worst loss in seven years, 81-58.

For Bill Self and No. 4/3 ranked Kansas (26-5; 14-4), it all came down to the final regular season game of the year. When Kansas State lost to Oklahoma State early on Saturday afternoon, the Jayhawks had clinched at least a share of their ninth straight Big 12 regular season championship.

However, a road victory over Baylor (18-13; 9-9) would give Kansas the Big 12 title outright. The Jayhawks took a 2-0 lead in the opening seconds of the game, but it would be their only lead of the contest.

With so much at stake on Saturday, Kansas simply had no answer for Scott Drew and Baylor. Pierre Jackson scored a game-high 28 points for the Bears, while Cory Jefferson added 25 points and seven rebounds.

Jefferson, who entered the Kansas game without a made three-pointer, was a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc on Saturday. While Jackson and Jefferson led the way, A.J. Walton chipped in 12 points and Isaiah Austin added 11 points in what has to be considered Baylor's biggest win of the year.

For nearly 40 minutes, Baylor was perfect on the offensive end of the court. The Bears connected on 30-or-52 (57.7%) of their field goals, 6-of-12 (50%) of their threes and 15-of-24 (62.5%) of their free-throws. On Saturday, BU outrebounded KU, 34-33, dished out 17 dimes to just 10 turnovers, blocked eight shots and finished with six steals.

Self's squad shot just 21-of-56 (37.5%) from the field, 6-of-19 (31.6%) from behind the arc and 10-of-17 (58.8%) from the free-throw line. The Jayhawks finished with more turnovers (13) than assists (11), and simply couldn't overcome Baylor's hot shooting touch.

Early on in the second half, Kansas pulled to within five points on a three-pointer by Ben McLemore, but Baylor answered with a run of its own, and for much of the second half, played with a double-digit lead.

The Jayhawks did fight to within six points, 61-55, at the 6:23 mark, but as they'd done for the entire game, the Bears answered the call, and cruised the remainder of the game. McLemore scored a team-high 23 points, Perry Ellis chipped in 12 points and Elijah Johnson added 10 points on Saturday.

Even with its worst loss in seven years, Kansas will still be the No. 1 seed in next week's conference tournament in Kansas City, and now has at least a share of the last nine Big 12 regular-season titles. The Jayhawks had won the previous four outright, but have to share this one with rival Kansas State, which also lost Saturday.

Now, Kansas will turn its attention to next week's Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship in Kansas City's Sprint Center. The Jayhawks will play the 2 p.m. game in Thursday's first session against the winner the contest between No. 7 Texas and No. 10 TCU.




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