Monday's showdown between #3 Baylor and #7 Kansas gave the visiting Bears a great chance to make the statement that they were ready to dethrone a program that's won at least a share of the last seven Big 12 titles. Well while there's still plenty of basketball to be played before the regular season champion is determined, it's safe to say that Bill Self's team has no plans to simply hand over the top spot. Thomas Robinson outplayed the highly-touted Baylor frontcourt, scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, and Tyshawn Taylor scored a game-high 28 points and dished out six assists as the Jayhawks rolled to the 92-74 victory.
"We played terrific. That's the best game we've played all year," remarked Self. "The energy level was great and we got off to a great start."
Baylor looked to be every bit Kansas' equal after the Jayhawks jumped out to a 17-9 lead, putting together an 18-5 run over a nearly seven-minute stretch to take a 27-22 lead with 6:01 remaining. But to sustain such play at Allen Fieldhouse is difficult to say the least, and Kansas would close the half on a 17-2 run to take a 39-29 lead into the break. Taylor, who capped the half with a three-pointer from the top of the key, led the way with 14 points while Robinson added 12 and five boards. Rebounding was an issue all night for Baylor, who ignored the need to box out and it cost them.
Kansas grabbed 15 offensive rebounds on the night, scoring 17 second-chance points, and out-rebounded the Bears 39-24. And if that wasn't enough the Jayhawks outscored Baylor 48-34 in the paint and all five starters reached double figures in scoring. Jeff Withey, the player who had to show up lest Robinson be left to deal with the Baylor frontcourt by himself, posted a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds in addition to three blocked shots. With Baylor's starting frontcourt scoring 49 of their 74 points Withey had to be a factor and he was.
"When we get Jeff going, it really gets a lot of us going, and a lot of people don't know that," said Elijah Johnson, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds. "Jeff is a key player to our team, especially with getting us started. When he is on track, it can be a long night for some teams."
Perry Jones III led Scott Drew's club with 18 points and Quincy Miller scored 17 but it wasn't enough to avoid their first defeat of the year. Pierre Jackson scored 11 points off the bench in his sixth-man role to go along with 11 assists, but his solid performance was eclipsed by what Taylor was able to do. Provided they improve their rebounding, which is surprisingly mediocre given their size, Baylor will be a factor in both the Big 12 and national title races. But the biggest lesson to come out of Monday night is that to win the Big 12 the road once again goes through Lawrence.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Marquette climbs out of an 18-2 hole to beat Louisville at home.
Down 18-2, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams took what many would judge to be an unconventional approach to dealing with his team. He didn't flip out or panic, and as a result his lack of an overreaction proved to be the best move. The Golden Eagles would outscore Louisville 32-12 from that point forward to take a 34-30 halftime lead on their way to the 74-63 win at the Bradley Center. Darius Johnson-Odom led four Marquette players in double figures with 19 points, Davante Gardner scored 17 and grabbed six rebounds and Jae Crowder posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds), but the foul line proved to be the difference on Monday afternoon.
Marquette made 16 of their 18 free throws while Louisville failed to take advantage of their opportunities, making four of ten from the charity stripe. Russ Smith scored 20 points to lead the Cardinals, who were once again without the injured Kyle Kuric, and their half-court offense remains an issue. Louisville finished with 17 assists but also turned the ball over 17 times, and the absence of Kuric severely hampers the bench production as Smith moves into the starting lineup. Marquette's reserves, led by Todd Mayo (11 points), outscored the Louisville reserves 15-3. Marquette could have lost their composure and allowed the Cardinals to run away with the game at 18-2 but they stayed the course and ultimately won.
2. Syracuse continues the best start in school history with a win over Pittsburgh.
Despite their recent track record of futility against Pittsburgh heading into Monday's game at the Carrier Dome (no current player had ever beaten the Panthers), few expected the top-ranked Orange to struggle with Jamie Dixon's club. And after 20 minutes of play it looked as if Syracuse was going to roll to their 20th consecutive win as they led 35-26. Pitt couldn't take care of the basketball, and their 11 first-half turnovers led to 12 Syracuse points. But the Panthers were able to remain within striking distance by hitting the glass,out-rebounding the Orange 22-14. That would continue in the second half, and while the Orange went on to win 71-63 the 40-28 disadvantage on the glass is something that sticks out for Jim Boeheim's 20-0 squad.
Dion Waiters led five players in double figures with 16 points and Fab Melo posted a double-double with ten points and ten assists while Pitt was led by three players who scored ten points apiece. But just like Louisville, the Panthers' woes at the foul line prevented them from making the game uncomfortably close for Syracuse. Syracuse made 20 of their 23 free throws while the Panthers shot 12-for-23 with Nasir Robinson missing six of his eight attempts.
Be it free throws or layups Pittsburgh is not completing the "simple" plays right now, and that's a big reason why they're off to their worst start in Big East play since the 1995-96 season. As for Syracuse, while they were the unanimous choice for the top spot in the coaches' poll this week there's still plenty to improve upon. For a team that can achieve special things this season, this is just one step on the road they hope leads them to New Orleans.
3. So much for the SWAC showdown, as Mississippi Valley State rolls Southern.
With Southern entering their road game in Itta Bena just a game out of first place in the loss column there was reason to believe that Rob Spivery's Jaguars would challenge the Delta Devils. Twenty-one turnovers later however Southern found themselves on the wrong end of a 77-56 result, as they also shot 38.8% from the field and gave up 19 offensive rebounds. Five MVSU players reached double figures with Cor-J Cox scoring a game-high 23 off the bench and Paul Crosby grabbed 14 rebounds in addition to scoring 18 points.
To say the least it's a lot easier to win when scoring 27 points off of 21 turnovers and 23 second-chance points, and as a result Sean Woods' Delta Devils find themselves in sole possession of first place with a 5-0 league mark. With five teams within two games of each other in the loss column it's anyone's guess as to how the race will shake out, but the Delta Devils' win keeps them above the rest for the time being.
1. From Sunday, there were two huge differences between Ohio State's 80-63 win over Indiana and their loss to the Hoosiers in the first meeting. One, Aaron Craft was much better running the show (seven assists and no turnovers; had six turnovers in Bloomington). And two, Lenzelle Smith Jr. went off to the tune of 28 points and seven rebounds on 10-for-12 shooting. If Smith Jr. can be a consistent supplement to William Buford, Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, look out.
2. Missouri took care of business ahead of their meeting with Baylor in Waco on Saturday, beating Texas A&M 70-51. The point guard play wasn't close with Phil Pressey outplaying Dash Harris and that's one reason as to why Billy Kennedy's team has struggled this season. The Aggies need more from their guards if they're to have a shot at climbing into the middle of the Big 12 pack.
3. Logan Aronhalt scored 20 points and Mike Black 13 to lead Albany, but when two starters manage to go scoreless it's tough to win on the road. Guards D.J. Irving and Darryl Partin combined to score 32 points as Boston University beat the Great Danes 70-57 to move to 4-1 in America East play. The Terriers are a half-game behind Stony Brook for first place, as the Seawolves moved to 5-1 with a 71-62 win over New Hampshire.
4. In a matchup of undefeated (in league play) teams Norfolk State won 74-66 at Coppin State. Kyle O'Quinn, who has to be the frontrunner for MEAC Player of the Year right now, scored 24 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and Pendarvis Williams scored a game-high 25 points. The Spartans sit atop the MEAC standings with a 4-0 record.
5. Christian Williams made just three of twelve shots from the field but his three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining gave Jackson State a 52-51 lead on their way to the 54-51 win over previously undefeated Texas Southern. Jenirro Bush led the Tigers with 23 points and eight rebounds.
6. Memphis freshman Adonis Thomas could be done for the season due to an injury suffered in practice on Friday, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. A surgery that would repair a tendon between Thomas' ankle and foot would necessitate a recovery period of two to three months.
Three Notable Performances
1. F/C Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State)
24 points and 19 rebounds in the Spartans' 74-66 win over Coppin State.
2. F Thomas Robinson and G Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas)
Robinson scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Taylor put up 28 points and six assists in the Jayhawks' 92-74 whipping of #3 Baylor.
3. G Melquan Bolding (Fairleigh Dickinson)
38 points, five rebounds and three steals in the Knights' 87-83 loss to Longwood.