Late free throws lift Kansas to 67-65 victory over Baylor

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Long after the players, coaches, referees, media and fans had gone home, Landen Lucas returned to James Naismith Court after Kansas’ grueling overtime victory over West Virginia on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. Lucas, a 6-foot-10 senior forward, hoisted free throw after free throw in an attempt to fix a weakness in his game.

“I was there until about 1:30 in the morning. I couldn’t go to sleep after that,” said Lucas, who, bricked five of seven free throws, including two in crunch time of the Jayhawks’ 84-80 win over the Mountaineers.

“I knew that was back-to-back games where I didn’t make clutch free throws,” said Lucas. “In the tournament, we might lose a game because of that. I figured I had to stay in the gym until I hit a couple hundred. It was more than 200. It was a lot. I was in there until I felt confident moving forward.”

Lucas’ work paid off Saturday when he made two free throws with 11.7 seconds left Saturday that propelled the No. 3 Jayhawks to a 67-65 victory over No. 4 Baylor at the Ferrell Center.

Lucas — who had grabbed a rebound off a Devonté Graham three-point miss with 15 seconds left and was fouled by Johnathan Motley while horsing up a stickback shot — relied on his extra work in the gym to bolster his confidence at the line.

“I wasn’t nervous. I usually don’t get nervous,” said Lucas, who missed his first two free-throw tries three minutes into the game.

Lucas finished with eight points (2 of 4 from the line, 3 of 4 from the field, ), seven rebounds and three blocks in helping Kansas (24-3, 12-2 in the Big 12) down a Baylor team (22-5, 9-5) that now trails KU by three games in the Big 12 race with four games to play.

“The last time I was at the line against West Virginia I was disappointed I hadn’t been putting up as many shots as I should have been,” Lucas said. “I was overthinking things. This time, I actually had some free throws to look back on. Knowing that I just made a couple hundred the other day … it’s easy to make two.”

Lucas had told KU fans via Twitter late Monday that he’d be working on his free-throw shooting. He entered the Baylor game as a 52.3 percent shooter from the line in conference games.

“Don’t worry y’all I’m about to get in the gym and shoot some free throws lol,” he tweeted after the West Virginia game. “Big time win though. Thanks for sticking with us!!!”

“It’s a coincidence,” Lucas said of his timely tweet. “I knew people were getting frustrated. I was, too. I try not to get too discouraged. I made sure I made the ones that mattered.”

Graham, who missed 11 of 12 shots including 8 of 9 threes on Saturday, was extremely confident Lucas would break the 65-65 tie versus the Bears, who led by 12 points with a minute left in the first half, but just six at halftime following threes by Frank Mason (23 points) and Josh Jackson (16).

“I told him before he shot it, ‘Shoot it nice and soft, no rim,’” Graham said of his advice to Lucas. “That’s what we always tell each other. If it touches the rim it doesn’t count. He made ’em both, so it’s good. It shows his hard work is paying off, making clutch free throws late.”

Kansas coach Bill Self, who before Saturday’s game was listed as one of 14 finalists to be considered for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017, also figured Lucas would be money from the line.

“I actually was very confident,” Self said. “I thought he would make them. I think he was confident too. If I’m not mistaken he missed two early. I”m not even sure they were close. But these were pure. I don’t think there was much doubt.”

Up by two after the Lucas free throws, Kansas still had to survive a final Baylor possession in order to up its winning streak over the Bears to 10 games, including four at Ferrell Center. After a time out with 8.7 seconds left, Manu Lecomte (16 points, 6-of-14 shooting, 4 of 9 from three), who was guarded by Mason and Jackson, missed an off-balance jumper just inside the three-point arc with 2 seconds left, the ball careering to the corner with no chance of a Baylor rebound.

Lecomte was favoring an ankle that he’d injured with seven minutes left.

“Those guys (Jayhawks) were excellent at game point,” Self said of his defenders, who held Baylor to 42.9 percent shooting from the field, including 8 of 18 on three-pointers.

The Jayhawks, who hit 41.8 percent of their shots (including 5 of 20 on threes) battled back from a 65-59 deficit with 3:34 left. Jackson scored back-to-back buckets, and Graham hit two free throws that knotted the score 65-65 with 2:16 left in the game.

After failed opportunities by both teams, KU took possession following a Baylor miss from Jo Lual-Acuil and called timeout with 23.7 seconds left in the game and 16 ticks left on the shot clock. That’s the possession in which Graham missed a three and Lucas grabbed the rebound that led to his free throws.

“Down six coming out of the timeout you’ve got to have great possessions every time,” Self said. “These guys did it. (And) we defended unbelievable down the stretch.”

Kansas can now assure itself at least a tie for its 13th straight Big 12 regular-season title by beating TCU on Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse. A 13th consecutive crown would tie KU with UCLA (1967-79) for most consecutive conference titles in college basketball history.

“Secure the ring alert,” Kansas’ Mason tweeted to his followers shortly after Saturday’s final horn. Mason made 7 of 12 shots from the floor and 8 of 8 from the line.

“It could have been a one-game lead (over Baylor) if we lost,” Mason told reporters after the game. “We’re up three now. It was a huge win for us. We’ll get ready for practice and lock in for TCU.”

Self said the Jayhawks have put themselves “in great position, up three with four to play. We’ll not take it for granted. With a different outcome we’d have been up one with four to play.”

“I’m proud of the guys and how hard they compete,” Self added, pointing out Kansas has beaten teams ranked No. 1 (Duke in New York), No. 2 (Baylor in Lawrence) and No. 4 (Kentucky in Lexington; Baylor in Waco). “We’re in a good position in the league race. I think we should enjoy this, rest a bit and think about the league race Monday.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew was disappointed after the narrow home loss. Baylor is 14-2 at home, losing to Kansas and Kansas State.

“I think right now, we’re pretty upset, as you would imagine,” Drew said. “The good thing is tomorrow is a new day, a new opportunity. We all want a conference championship, but I think everybody on our team definitely would rather have an NCAA Final Four or championship more.

“So that’s what we’ve got to gear for and get ready for and look forward to that opportunity.”

Self on Mason’s play

Kansas senior guard Mason scored 16 points the second half.

“I didn’t think he was aggressive the first half,” Self said of Mason. “I said (at half), ‘Why not just let it go? The second half just let it go, play take-’em or whatever.”

Baylor’s Drew praises Lucas

Kansas senior Lucas has been a factor in various KU-Baylor games.

“I think in the last three close games with Kansas, Lucas has come up with the big rebounds in the last three minutes, and we haven’t been able to keep him off the glass when we needed to do that,” Drew said.

“So, he deserves a lot of credit. I thought our guys really competed, put ourselves in position to win, and we fully expected to win. They made one more play than us, Big 12 basketball.”

As far as the game’s final play in which Lecomte missed a deep two-point shot: “We were trying to get it to Motley (down low),” Drew said. “And they did a good job helping down. And when they took that away, we wish we could have gotten a better look and a better shot in the last six or seven seconds. But, they deserve credit on taking away J-Mot down low.”

Free throw chatter

Kansas hit 16 of 20 free throws to Baylor’s 9 of 11 on Saurday. In a five-point win over Baylor in Lawrence earlier this season, KU hit 20 of 27 to Baylor’s 4 of 6.

“They do an unbelievable job in drawing contact,” Drew said. “We worked on it all week, and we’ll keep working on it. Hopefully that will help us when we get in the NCAA Tournament, where we keep getting better at getting to the free-throw line by drawing contact. That will be a point of emphasis for us.”

No. 3 KANSAS 67

No. 4 BAYLOR 65

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Kansas

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Lucas

31

3-4

2-4

7

1

4

8

Graham

37

1-12

4-4

7

4

0

7

Jackson

32

7-14

1-2

1

2

4

16

Mason

39

7-12

8-8

2

8

0

23

Mykhailiuk

22

1-6

0-0

4

1

2

3

Vick

30

3-5

1-2

6

1

1

8

Bragg

5

1-2

0-0

0

1

2

2

Lightfoot

4

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

23-55

16-20

27

18

13

67

Percentages: FG .418, FT .800. Three-Point Goals: 5-20, .250 (Jackson 1-1, Vick 1-2, Mason 1-3, Mykhailiuk 1-5, Graham 1-9). Team Rebounds: None. Blocked Shots: 8 (Jackson 4, Lucas 3, Lightfoot). Turnovers: 9 (Lucas 3, Mykhailiuk 2, Graham, Jackson, Mason, Vick). Steals: 5 (Mason 2, Graham, Jackson, Lucas). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: None.

 

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Baylor

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Lual-Acuil

35

4-8

3-4

2

0

2

11

Motley

37

8-21

3-3

9

4

3

19

Lecomte

39

6-14

0-0

3

2

2

16

McClure

22

2-3

2-2

1

3

4

7

Wainright

24

1-2

1-2

4

1

4

4

Lindsey

24

1-2

0-0

2

7

0

3

Omot

12

2-3

0-0

2

0

0

5

Maston

7

0-3

0-0

4

0

3

0

Totals

200

24-56

9-11

27

17

18

65

Percentages: FG .429, FT .818. Three-Point Goals: 8-18, .444 (Lecomte 4-9, Lindsey 1-1, McClure 1-2, Omot 1-2, Wainright 1-2, Motley 0-2). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 2 (Lual-Acuil, Motley). Turnovers: 16 (Motley 6, McClure 3, Lindsey 2, Lual-Acuil 2, Lecomte, Maston, Omot). Steals: 3 (Wainright 3). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: None.

 

Half: Baylor 35-29. Att: 10,021.

AP-WF-02-18-17 2054GMT


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