KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas coach Bill Self said the final couple minutes of Friday's Big 12 semifinal against Baylor didn't take anything away from his team's impressive second-half performance … even if it almost took away a win.
After overcoming a halftime deficit to build a comfortable lead, Self put in his backups to coax the game to its conclusion. But the No. 22 Bears rallied, forcing the Kansas starters back onto the floor, where they finally managed to finish off a 70-66 victory.
"I had one guy ask me yesterday, 'Hey, when you get a lead in the last two minutes, why don't you play your bench?' " Self said. "And I did. And it didn't work out so great."
Al Freeman's 3 got Baylor within 68-64 with 20 seconds left, and that was when Self sent his top players back on the floor. Jonathan Motley's putback then got the Bears within three with five seconds to go, but Devonte Graham made the second of two free throws at the other end to put the game away.
Graham had 14 points and eight assists as the Jayhawks (29-4) beat the Bears (22-11) for the third time this season — and avenged their tournament loss from a year ago. Perry Ellis scored 20 for the Jayhawks.
Kansas plays sixth-ranked Oklahoma or No. 9 West Virginia for the title tonight.
"Proud that our guys didn't quit at the end," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. Freeman scored 14 and Rico Gathers had 13 points and nine boards for the Bears.
The victory was the 13th straight for Kansas, which can match the number of tournament titles won by every other Big 12 school with its 10th.
NO. 3 'NOVA 76, PROVIDENCE 68: Kris Jenkins scored 21 and the Wildcats (29-4) smothered Friars stars Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn on defense, advancing to tonight's Big East title game at Madison Square Garden. Center Daniel Ochefu scored all eight of his points in the final 6:41, helping the top-seeded Wildcats hold on down the stretch.
No. 22 Colo. State 55, Fresno State 54: Ellen Nystrom hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining to lift the Rams (31-1) in the Mountain West tournament championship game in Las Vegas an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Albany 59, Maine 58: Shereesha Richards scored 31, Imani Tate keyed a fourth-quarter rally, and the top-seeded Great Danes (27-4) held off the second-seeded Black Bears to win the America East tournament for a record fifth time in a row and secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
TAMPA PULLS UPSET: The No. 8 seed Spartans upset top-seeded Union 72-62 in the South Region's first round in Jackson, Tenn., of the Division II tournament. Juliana Cavallaro led UT (20-12) with 23 points, while point guard Elena de Alfredo added 16 points and six assists. Ellen Nurmi added 11 points, and Candace Martino came off the bench to score 10 against Union (28-4). Tampa advances to tonight's semifinal against Sunshine State Conference rival and No. 4 Florida Southern, a 61-50 winner over No. 5 Kentucky State.