LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — After three losses to start Big 12 play, Kansas coach Brandon Schneider wanted his team to start having some fun again.
The Jayhawks had a whole lot of fun Wednesday night.
Taiyanna Jackson had a career-high 27 points with 19 rebounds, S’Mya Nichols and Holly Kersgieter gave No. 4 Baylor fits from the perimeter, and the Jayhawks rolled to an 87-66 victory that snapped their 19-game losing streak to the Bears.
Nichols had 22 points and Kersgieter scored 19 for the Jayhawks (8-7, 1-3 Big 12), who used a 16-0 run spanning halftime to turn an eight-point deficit into a lead they would never relinquish in their first win over a top-five team in 15 years.
“I think when you get off to a tough start,” Schneider said, “there’s turning-point moments, hopefully. We talked about the opportunity for this to be a turning-point moment for us. Not only are they celebrating the win, I think they’re celebrating having a lot more fun. Win or lose, we have to have a lot more fun.”
It was quite a performance after a 25-point loss to West Virginia and closer losses to Iowa State and Texas Tech.
“We just wanted it. We had so much fun playing,” said Jackson, who went over 1,000 points for her career. “We played as a team. We stayed connected, even when they went on their little runs. We just had fun for 40 mintues.”
All the fun came at the expense of the Bears (14-1, 3-1), who lost at Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since Jan. 19, 2014. The lopsided defeat left only top-ranked South Carolina and No. 2 UCLA unbeaten in women’s Division I college basketball.
Darianna Littlepage-Buggs led Baylor with 16 points. Dre’una Edwards and Jada Walker had 11 apiece.
Prior to the game, Baylor coach Nicki Collen talked about being one of the last unbeatens in the nation, and how “you really become the hunted. It’s really being focused on how and why we’re here right now.”
That focus fizzled after the Bears opened a 35-26 lead in the first half.
The Jayhawks’ comeback began with three straight points by Nichols, one of the top recruits to Kansas in years, and continued with buckets by Jackson and Skyler Gill. A driving layup Nichols capped an 8-0 spurt that tied the game 37-all at halftime, and the break only allowed the Jayhawks to catch their breath a little bit.
It certainly didn’t slow down their moment.
They went on a 15-2 run out of the locker room to seize a 52-39 lead with 6:22 left in the third quarter, and they pushed the advantage to 16 points by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. The Bears were never able to put together the run they needed to get back in the game, and the Jayhawks coasted to the finish.
“Honestly, we just had fun,” Jackson said. “That was the difference.”
Baylor was simply dominated in the paint, getting outscored 56-32 by Jackson and the Jayhawks. That wouldn’t have been such a big problem if the Bears also weren’t 5 of 25 from the 3-point arc.
Kansas lost by a point to No. 9 Virginia Tech and by eight to sixth-ranked UConn earlier this season, so the Jayhawks had shown the ability to play with the best in the nation. They left no doubt with their win over Baylor.
Baylor visits Iowa State on Saturday.
Kansas plays Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
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