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No. 17 Baylor beats No. 9 Kansas in matchup of last 2 champs

Baylor guard LJ Cryer (4) scores a 3-point basket over Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

WACO, Texas (AP) — Langston Love came up huge for 17th-ranked Baylor after No. 9 Kansas took its only lead in a matchup of the last two national champions, both of whom have endured three-game losing streaks in Big 12 play.

The reigning champion Jayhawks are on their three-game skid, only the fourth in coach Bill Self’s 20 seasons. Baylor’s 75-69 win on Monday night gave the Bears a Big 12-best five game winning streak since losing their first three conference games.

“There is time to be reactive in a negative way if your team’s not doing well. This is not one of our times,” Self said. “We have gotten beat, and granted we got beat (by) a team that was projected to win the league tonight, that’s really good. And they went through the same crap we’re going through right now. … Our league is that good. It’s going to be a grind.”

Love made an impressive go-ahead turnaround jumper while being fouled, then made the free throw. The freshman guard, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in a preseason scrimmage, later capped the Bears’ key run with a 3-pointer.

Jalen Wilson swished a 3 from the left wing with 15:24 left to give the Jayhawks (16-4, 5-3 Big 12) their only lead at 46-45. Love then started a 12-3 spurt with his three-point play.

“He’s ready to step up whenever his name is called. … We weren’t surprised when he went out there and did what he did,” Bears senior Adam Flagler said of his fellow guard.

“That’s huge for us. It shows that when adversity hits, we’re able to fight through it,” guard LJ Cryer said. “We’ve had games this season where adversity hits and we didn’t fight back.”

Cryer had 22 points for 2021 champion Baylor (15-5, 5-3), though 19 of his points and all five of his treys came before halftime. Flagler added 17 points, while Jalen Bridges and Love each had 11.

Freshman Gradey Dick had 24 points and Wilson 23 for the Jayhawks, who were coming off a 23-point home loss to TCU after a one-point overtime loss at now fifth-ranked Kansas State. Kevin McCullar Jr. had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season.

After an early layup by Wilson got Kansas within 11-7, Baylor had a 9-0 run that was punctuated by Josh Ojianwuna’s two-handed putback dunk. That was the last time in the half that the Bears had consecutive scores, though Cryer did make three 3s in an 83-second span — the first two after 3s by Dick and Wilson, and the third following two free throws by Dick.

TOUGH SHOOTING

The Bears missed 11 of their last 13 shots over the final 13 minutes, and finished 37.1% from the field (23 of 62) two days after a 62-60 win at Oklahoma when they shot a season-low 36.2%.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The other times the Jayhawks lost three in a row under Self were in February 2005, February 2013 and January 2021. … Dick got his second foul only 3:13 into the first half, and was limited to 11 minutes before the break.

Baylor: The Bears got off to a fast start with a steal by Bridges that led to a fast-break layup by Cryer before Flo Thamba had a three-point play. Bridges then had another steal, this one in the backcourt, though Cryer missed an open 3 that would have made it 8-0 only a minute into the game. … The Bears are 25-8 against Top 25 teams over the past four seasons, the nation’s best mark. Baylor is 12-1 against Top 10 teams the past three years.

UP NEXT

Kansas goes to Rupp Arena to play Kentucky in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.

Baylor is home for its SEC/Big 12 Challenge game against Arkansas on Saturday. That is a rematch of the 2021 Elite Eight game the Bears won 81-72 on way to winning their national championship.