WACO, Texas — While ruling the Big 12 basketball scene, Kansas won every conference opener since the league began in the 1996-97 season.
The 12th-ranked Jayhawks had to fight to keep that streak alive Wednesday night at 21st-ranked Baylor.
Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. scored seven points in the final 3:02, and the Jayhawks came up with the key stop they needed to claim a 56-55 victory at the Ferrell Center.
Paced by Selden, who finished with nine points, Kansas made eight of its last 10 shots to take momentum away from Baylor in the final eight minutes. Selden made three jump shots, two on assists from guard Frank Mason on another off a dish from forward Cliff Alexander.
“I was just trying to let the game come to me,” Selden said. “I knew we had to step up and make plays, and my teammates found me.”
Forward Jamari Traylor led Kansas (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) with 13 points. Guard Brannen Greene scored 12 off the bench, and Mason added 11 and five assists.
Baylor had a chance to take the lead with a fast-break opportunity in the final 20 seconds, but forwards Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers each missed shots. However, Gathers grabbed the rebound to give the Bears another chance with 10.1 seconds left.
Kansas forward Kelly Oubre deflected the inbounds pass, and it hit Baylor guard Kenny Chery before going out of bounds, giving the Jayhawks possession. Greene hit two free throws to extend the lead to three.
“It was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We made a decision to go with Wayne instead of Kelly, and Wayne scored seven straight points, and then we send Kelly in for defense, and he gets the steal to put us in position.”
Chery answered Greene’s free throws by making two with 5.1 seconds left.
Baylor then put Mason on the free-throw line to shoot one-and-one. Mason missed the first, giving Baylor a desperation attempt as forward Taurean Prince came away with the rebound.
Prince passed to Chery, but instead of shooting from 30 feet, Chery passed ahead to guard Lester Medford, who failed to get off a shot before time expired.
“(Prince) wasn’t able to grab it cleanly, and Kenny bobbled it,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “You can’t have two bobbles with 3.9 (seconds left),”
Kansas shot 72.7 percent in the second half after a dismal shooting performance in the first 20 minutes. Self said the bounce-back resulted from better execution of the game plan.
“We did the exact same thing the second half as we did the first half, we just threw it to guys and trusted them to catch it and we had some confidence,” Self said. “When you shoot 73 percent and don’t turn it over, that’s a pretty good second half.”
Chery carried Baylor, scoring 25 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting. He also dished out three assists for the Bears (11-3, 0-2).
Forward Jamari Traylor scored the first seven points of the second half for Kansas, helping the Jayhawks take a 23-22 lead.
“He kept us in the game,” Selden said. “He kept it close when they could have really put their foot on our throat. He really led us to this one.”
Medford hit two 3-pointers and Chery added another to help the Bears re-establish a six-point lead with 15:55 left.
However, Baylor couldn’t get enough stops to keep the momentum going.
“Not a good way to start — 0-and-2 (in the Big 12) stinks no matter how it is,” Drew said. “Sometimes you lose by 20 and you can sleep at night because you know you weren’t even in the game. These are the ones that keep you up at night.”
Chery hit a pair of 3-pointers and paced the Bears with 10 points as they took a 22-18 lead to halftime. Baylor drained four of eight from beyond the arc and led by as many as six despite shooting just 28 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Kansas was a little worse shooting early, as the Jayhawks made 27.6 percent from the field and didn’t take a free throw in the first half. Kansas attempted to go inside without much success against the
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