No. 7 Kansas, No. 15 Baylor battle for Big 12 positioning

No. 7 Kansas and No. 15 Baylor will meet Saturday in Waco, Texas, in a rare battle for third place in the Big 12 Conference.Fighting for anything but the top spot in the league is unusual for these

No. 7 Kansas, No. 15 Baylor battle for Big 12 positioning

No. 7 Kansas and No. 15 Baylor will meet Saturday in Waco, Texas, in a rare battle for third place in the Big 12 Conference.

Fighting for anything but the top spot in the league is unusual for these two squads, as the Jayhawks (21-7, 9-6 Big 12) and Bears (20-8, 9-6) have won or shared the last four regular-season conference titles.

No. 1 Houston is 12-3 and No. 8 Iowa State is 11-4 in the Big 12 entering the weekend.

Kansas lost to BYU on Tuesday night, snapping a 19-game home-court winning streak, the third-longest active streak in the nation. The Jayhawks led by 12 in the second half but saw the Cougars sink 7 of 15 3-pointers after intermission to mount the comeback.

“I actually saw some things with guys’ frustration that really wasn’t as mature as what we should have, considering the age of some of our guys,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “There wasn’t as much thinking ‘next play’ as there was thinking ‘last play,’ and that’s not a good sign.”

Kansas still needs to figure out how to play without leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr., who has missed five of the Jayhawks’ last eight games with a bone bruise on his knee. He played the previous game against Oklahoma, when the Jayhawks won on the road, but he didn’t play against BYU. Self is concerned that McCullar won’t play again in the regular season.

“We’re preparing like he won’t (be back),” Self said Tuesday. “But this is who we are. When we’re good, we are pretty good. When we’re not, we’re not. We played pitifully tonight, but when I say we played pitifully, that can give the appearance I’m taking something away from BYU. BYU was better than us tonight.

“The second half, after we got up 12 (41-29 with 18:28 left), they controlled it. We hoped to score; they actually ran offense to score. They caused us to look bad. It’ll help if we have Kevin back, but we’ve been dealing with this for about five weeks, where he hasn’t been himself from a health standpoint. When he played, he wasn’t himself.”

Baylor is coming off a 62-54 road win Monday at TCU that snapped a two-game losing streak for the Bears. Baylor’s defense stepped up, holding the Horned Frogs to 33.3 percent shooting overall and 26.3 percent (5 of 19) from 3-point range.

“(That) is not a typical outing for them,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “(The zone) works better when people miss shots, but I’d like to credit our defense a little bit, too. I thought we did a good job of making things difficult some of the time.”

Ja’Kobe Walter and Yves Missi led the Bears with 16 points each, while Jalen Bridges added 15. Bridges had 12 first-half points on four 3-pointers. RayJ Dennis nearly had a triple-double for the game, with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

When asked if he liked his team’s defensive effort, Drew said, “What I like is winning.

“We’ll play a box-and-one, triangle-and-two. We’ll play no defense, whatever it takes to win. The last five years, we’ve been really good in man, so credit the guys for listening and buying in and trusting us.”

Kansas won the first meeting with Baylor 64-61 on Feb. 10 in Lawrence, Kan., behind 15 points from Hunter Dickinson.