KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas head coach Bill Self was not happy with his team's play in the first half, but he was confident they would respond when it counted. The No. 1-ranked Jayhawks trailed No. 22 Baylor 23-21 at halftime, but defeated the Bears 70-66 to advance to the finals of the Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center.
"I thought they guarded us well, but I thought we attacked their zone miserably," Self said. "I thought guys were wide open and didn't get where we could make the plays. I think we were stuck on 18 for five or six minutes, so it wasn't great.
"We're going to have other flat halves, and hopefully we play long enough (in the postseason) where that can happen. But I thought the second half, the first 10 or 15 minutes, I thought we played really well. I thought we attacked their zone a lot better and had a lot more movement."
Forward Perry Ellis had 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, with eight of them coming at the beginning of the half, giving the Jayhawks the lead to stay.
"Perry was passive in the first half," Self said. "We had four lobs that we had bad passes or guys not jumping to go get 'em, and he was guilty on two of them. And, you know, he's got to be more aggressive.
"But the second half, we played through him the first four or five possessions. When we got the lead, it felt comfortable again."
It's Kansas' 12th appearance in the title game in the 20-year history of the tournament. Baylor's defeat also means the state of Texas will be without a tournament champion for the 20th straight year.
"I was proud how we finished the game," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. But he lamented the Bears' 14 of 23 night from the free-throw line.
"(It's) pretty consistent with us. We shoot free throws, we win close games; if we miss free throws, we don't. Yesterday we were 20 of 23, and that's a big part when you got close games. I'm proud that our guys didn't quit at the end."
Kansas (29-4) also got 14 points from guard Devonte' Graham, 11 from guard Wayne Selden and 10 from forward Carlton Bragg.
Baylor (22-11) was led by forward Al Freeman with 14 points. Forward Rico Gathers added 13 and forward Johnathan Motley had 11.
The second half was the opposite of the first half, especially for Kansas.
Ellis scored eight early second-half points as the Jayhawks scored on their first five possessions. Ellis made four straight free throws sandwiched around two successful drives to the basket.
"We definitely were more active in the second half, getting in the lane," Ellis said. "That opened up a lot of stuff for us."
Kansas held its biggest lead of the game to that point -- 31-25 -- before the first media timeout.
"He can shoot and also kind of handle the ball a little bit," Motley said of Ellis. "(He) just takes somebody who's versatile. And we made some mistakes on defense, allowing him to get open shots."
Baylor didn't quit. Gathers scored the next seven points to get Baylor back into the game.
Clinging to a 37-32 lead, Kansas went on a 9-1 run to blow the game open. The last two buckets were impressive dunks.
First, Bragg threw down a perfect alley-oop pass from Graham. That was followed by a thunderous dunk by Wayne Selden.
Selden victimized guard Ishmail Wainright on the dunk and to make matters worse for Baylor, the foul at the 10:52 mark was Wainwright's fifth and he was done for the night.
"It's got to be Top 10, at least No. 2 or No. 1," Graham said. "(It was a) crazy, athletic play. That gave us a little spark, so he needs to make more plays like that."
Baylor closed the gap to 69-66 in the waning seconds, but couldn't get over the hump.
Both teams were sluggish in the first half. With 8:33 left in the half Wainright hit a jumper to tie the score at 13-13. But Graham hit a 3-pointer and then followed it up with an alley-oop slam to bring the capacity crowd to its feet.
The enthusiasm did not last, however. Baylor scored the only three points over the next 4:13. The teams combined to shoot 38 percent from the field.
Baylor took a 23-21 lead into halftime on the shoulders of Jake Lindsey's 3-pointer that just beat the buzzer.
NOTES: Baylor is the only team in the country with no losses to team outside the RPI top-40. ... Kansas entered the Big 12 tournament as the top seed for the 13th time in the 20-year history of the tournament, including the last eight. The Jayhawks have won nine of the first 19 titles. ... Baylor has never defeated a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 (0-17, including 0-8 vs. top-ranked teams). ... Kansas is now 10-3 vs. ranked opponents in 2015-16.