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Big 12 showdown pits Jayhawks against Bears

<p>The eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will attempt to get back on the winning track on Tuesday night when they venture to the Ferrell Center for a Big 12 Conference bout with the Baylor Bears.</p>

Waco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks will attempt to get back on the winning track on Tuesday night when they venture to the Ferrell Center for a Big 12 Conference bout with the Baylor Bears.

Kansas was cruising along with seven straight wins to open Big 12 play prior to its most recent contest at Texas on Saturday, when it fell on the wrong end of an 81-69 final. The Jayhawks are still an impressive 16-5 overall this season and sit alone atop the league standings (7-1), although their performance away from home has been modest at best (3-3).

While KU snapped a long winning streak over the weekend, Baylor broke out of a five-game skid with an outstanding 76-70 victory at nationally-ranked Oklahoma State, which allowed it to improve to 14-7 overall and 2-6 in the league. The Bears have lost three straight on their home floor but have still largely impressed at the Ferrell Center (9-3).

Kansas has a firm 20-4 advantage in the all-time series with Baylor, although the teams split the last four meetings.

The Jayhawks fell flat against Texas over the weekend, as they got behind by 15 at intermission and were unable to dig themselves out of that hole en route to the 12-point defeat. It was one of their worst offensive performances of the season, shooting just 38.5 percent from the field and 13-of-19 from the free-throw line. Wayne Selden Jr. led the way with 21 points, Perry Ellis scored 11 and Joel Embiid tallied eight points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins struggled mightily on the afternoon, making just 2-of-12 from the field.

Kansas is typically a much more potent offensive club, as it shoots 50.3 percent from the floor (fourth-best in the nation) for 79.7 ppg, more than enough to support its modest scoring defense (70.3 ppg). It also owns a +6.8 rebounding margin but gives some of those possessions back with a -2.6 turnover margin. Wiggins is the leading scorer with 16.0 ppg on 44.7 percent shooting from the field and 78.2 percent at the foul line. Embiid mans the paint with 11.2 ppg (on 63.6 percent shooting), 7.7 rpg and 2.7 bpg, while Ellis (13.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Selden (10.5 ppg) and Naadir Tharpe (8.9 ppg, 5.3 apg) round out one of the country's best starting lineups.

Baylor and Oklahoma State battled through 13 ties and 14 lead changes, but the Bears finished on top thanks in part to an 11-3 run late in the second half that allowed them to surge ahead for good. They shot a lofty 51.9 percent from the field, including 11-of-23 from beyond the arc, and were led by Brady Heslip, who drained six 3-pointers on his way to 20 points. Rico Gathers came off the bench to net 14 points, while Gary Franklin and Cory Jefferson both had 11 points, with Jefferson making his performance a double-double with 13 rebounds.

Baylor has performed well on both ends of the floor this season, shooting just shy of 47 percent from the field for 75.7 ppg while allowing 67.8 ppg on 41.8 percent shooting. The team's strength comes in the frontcourt, where Jefferson (12.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Isaiah Austin (10.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) make up an imposing duo and have combined to block 86 shots. Heslip (11.3 ppg) comes off the bench most of the time and 62 of his 72 field goals have come from beyond the arc. Kenny Chery rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.0 ppg while finding time to hand out 5.0 apg as well.

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