The first Big 12 road appearance for Kansas was not perfect.
The Jayhawks essentially traded baskets for the first 12 minutes before their half-ending spurt created a 20-point lead at the break and verified why they were picked as conference favorites.
The eventual 26-point victory at Iowa State on Wednesday should give No. 3 Kansas (12-2, 2-0) a boost of confidence, something it will gladly accept while preparing for a titanic early league showdown at home Saturday against No. 4 Baylor (12-1, 2-0).
“I thought our guys did great,” Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters after the Iowa State game. “I didn’t think we guarded early and they made shots, we made shots, a H-O-R-S-E contest. After about that 10-minute mark of the first half, I thought we guarded them and did a good job locking them up.”
The Jayhawks managed their defensive uptick without junior guard Marcus Garrett, whose length, versatility and intuition makes him the team’s top defender. He went down with an ankle injury with 12 1/2 minutes left in the first half, then came back and played another 10 minutes in the second half.
It could be too that Kansas simply demoralized another opponent with a sensational exhibition of shooting. Over a stretch bridging the two halves, it canned nine consecutive field goal attempts and eventually maintained a percentage that makes the Jayhawks the only Big 12 team to average better than 50 percent shooting (.510).
The blowout enabled Self to shuffle reserves and in particular give his top inside and outside threats, sophomore point guard Devon Dotson and senior center Udoka Azubuike, an opportunity to rest.
“We extended some energy, I’m not going to say we didn’t,” said Self, “but we got a chance for everybody to play.”
Dotson leads the Big 12 with an 18.6-point average, while Azubuike leads the nation with 80 percent accuracy as a shooter. He averages 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Baylor, which has never won at Kansas in 17 tries, carries an 11-game winning streak but possesses just one road win.
That came Tuesday, a 57-52 standoff against last season’s national runner-up, Texas Tech. The victory came after a smothering triumph against Texas, 59-44.
The Bears limit opponents to 58.4 points on average, the fewest by a Big 12 team, while also containing opponents to 37.8 percent shooting. Kansas leads the Big 12 with a 79.4-point scoring average, but also restricts opponents to 37.1 percent shooting.
“We have been very good defensively,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, who nonetheless is wary of Big 12 rivals.
“They find weaknesses in you,” he said, “and after you go through the league, you know a lot more about your team.”
Sophomore guard Jared Butler paces the Bears at 16.3 points per game, while junior guard MaCio Teague chips in 14.5.
Senior forward Freddie Gillespie leads Baylor in rebounding (9.5). The Bears attack the glass offensively, averaging 14 boards on that end. They forged a 44-25 rebounding advantage at Texas Tech, including a season-high 13 boards by junior forward Mark Vital.
“Throughout high school my coach always told me I had a beast mode,” Vital explained. “That’s what I started calling myself and that’s what I was in (at Texas Tech). I was zoned out.”
–Field Level Media