As the pre-game video played on the big scoreboard above the court at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, driving the Kansas crowd crazy, no Baylor players or coaches looked up. A couple of guys in suits — managers, most likely — started to glance at the board before they caught themselves.
Attempting to ignore KU’s basketball tradition isn’t a bad idea. But it just never works.
Two years ago, when the Bears visited Lawrence, Baylor coach Scott Drew took his team into the concourse during the hype video, which highlights national championships, league titles, All-America players and titanic coaches. You know, all of the things most college basketball programs don’t have.
As an added touch Monday, former Kansas great Paul Pierce was shown on the video board, adding his motivation all the way from Boston, where he is a perennial All-Star with the Celtics.
First, Pierce welcomed the fans to the Fieldhouse. Then he uttered the words that cut every KU opponent deep: “Beware of the Phog.’’
What was coming next? Wilt Chamberlain delivering a message from the other side?
Come on, Baylor never had a chance. The same way almost every opponent that ventures into Allen Fieldhouse to play Kansas doesn’t have a chance.
The Bears held it together for a long time in the first half. Ultimately, though, a 13-0 run by Kansas to end the half — 11 of those points put up by the red-hot Tyshawn Taylor — put the Jayhawks up by 10 and they went on to win easily, 92-74.
It was Baylor’s first loss. But not really. Baylor, like almost every other team, always loses in Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears might have been 17-0 for this season going into the game, but they are now 0-10 on the Jayhawks’ home floor, helpless to find a solution.
But let’s not slam Baylor here. Let’s celebrate a Kansas team that put itself into the driver’s seat for an eighth straight Big 12 championship. A team that has two outstanding players — Taylor and 6-10 beast Thomas Robinson - and some other guys who know their roles.
The chemistry on this KU team is off the charts and it appears those who thought this was the season the Jayhawks’ stranglehold on the conference would be ended were just kidding themselves.
For one, Kansas just doesn’t lose at home.
The Jayhawks are 139-7 inside Allen Fieldhouse in Bill Self’s nine seasons as coach. Is it any wonder Self is greeted like a rock star when he comes onto the floor just minutes before the opening tip of every home game?
Who is 139-7 in anything?
And during this dominant stretch of Big 12 titles, the Jayhawks are 101-17 inside the conference. Including road games.
Baylor was ready, or so the Bears seemed to think.
While Pierce was inciting the crowd, Bears players circled the playing floor handing out high fives to one another and laughing.
You could almost read their lips: “We’re not going to let this get to us. No we’re not. No way. But man, it’s so loud.’’
But Baylor has done some road-warrior work this season. The Bears won at Bramlage Coliseum last week, beating Kansas State. They knocked off Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 4. They handled BYU in Provo.
Baylor is loaded with athletes who also are good basketball players. The Bears are the real deal. It’s just that Kansas makes a habit of sending real deals back to the real world when the Jayhawks are on their home floor.
Baylor was coming off a 106-65 home win over Oklahoma State. The Bears have a blue-chip recruit at almost every position. They have loaded up under Scott Drew.
Kansas, meanwhile, lost three underclassmen from last season to the NBA. And two more seniors who played key roles, Tyrell Reed and Brady Morningstar, graduated. This was to be a down year for the Jayhawks.
Just one thing: KU doesn’t have down years. And inside this historic building, where some of the greatest college basketball players in history have laced ‘em up, a down year is losing one game.
Taylor and Robinson, who combined for 55 points and did what they do — different as it is — so well.
Taylor made 10 of 14 shots and had six assists. He’s playing the best basketball of his KU career.
And Robinson? How does one aptly describe Robinson?
Baylor put one intimidating post player after another around Robinson and he swatted them away like flies. He had 27 points and 14 rebounds — his 13th double-double — and was 11 of 18 from the floor.
Kansas shot 57.4 percent against a team that had been limiting its opponents to 37.2 percent shooting. The Bears’ vaunted zone defense was shredded by KU, and so was their man-to-man.
As Kansas opened its lead ever wider, Baylor’s Drew finally looked up at the scoreboard to check who knows what. For the visiting team at Allen Fieldhouse, that’s never a good place to look.