WACO, Texas -- In the days and practices since Kansas center Jeff Withey went 0-fer in Saturday's three-point loss at No. 4 Missouri, there haven't been many moments when one or more teammates haven't been in his face.
"We have been screaming at him at practice every day,'' KU guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "We were punching him in the chest, trying to get him fired up.''
Turns out Withey cannot only take a punch, but deliver one as well.
The 7-footer scored a career-high 25 points, 17 of those in the first half, as No. 10 Kansas put away sixth-ranked Baylor 68-54 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Ferrell Center on Wednesday night. The win extends KU's streak of not losing back-to-back games to 228 and the loss extended Baylor's streak of home losses against top-10 teams to 17.
"I don't know why Withey likes playing against us so much, but he looks like an All-American when he does,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Well, here is one reason, Coach. Baylor plays a zone. And the Bears don't play it very well.
"With their zone it was kind of spaced out, we could make a direct pass to the post,'' said Taylor, who added 19 points. "A lot of time they were cheap passes and we were getting a lot of layups.''
So many layups that Kansas shot 59 percent in the second half and had 17 assists on 23 made baskets.
"These guys, they really showed me something, because I didn't think our energy level was very good today or yesterday,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I thought we may pout up and give in. We showed some toughness. You take away three minutes in the last 80 and that is about as good as any team I have been with since I have been at Kansas has played. That three minutes cost us a win [at Missouri].''
Against Baylor it was 11-minute stretch that won it for Kansas. Down nine in the first half, Kansas went on a 34-5 run that bridged the half to take a commanding 20-point lead. The run was punctuated by a seven-point play in which Baylor did its best to set basketball back to the Rock N' Jock days.
"The only time I have seen something like that was on MTV,'' Drew said.
Actually one feature of that seven-point possession would have been better off aired on "Friday Night Fights." After losing an inbounds pass and giving up an and-1 to Thomas Robinson, Baylor's Quincy Miller went high and hard with his elbow into a Kansas player. He was whistled for a flagrant one, giving KU two free throws and possession. Miller was benched and did not move from that spot due to a coach's decision.
His presence may not have been missed. Miller hit his first shot, the second of the game, and missed the next three. His failures were followed by that of Perry Jones III. The sophomore forward threw down a dunk to start the game and missed his next seven shots. That's just five points (Jones also made three free throws) from a combo that averages a combined 30 in Big 12 play.
"For those guys not to score from the field after that, I would have never thought that would happen,'' Self said. "That was a big blow to them and [a] big help to us.''
Kansas got the help because it was willing to extend its defense, shoot the passing lanes, and rotate and help when necessary.
"[Self] wants us to play high on the floor and put pressure on the guards as much as possible,'' Robinson said of the defensive effort. "We don't want to let them get easy passes. Pressure the ball when people are bouncing. And our big guys do a good job of trapping the post. Once everybody got on the same page, our defense was just clicking."
It helped that something had clicked within Withey as well.
"Coach definitely got in my head and told me I need to be able to play,'' he said. "I can't go games where I don't score. I have to be a part of this team and help out.''