Thirty minutes before tipoff between Kansas and Texas Tech on Senior
Night in Allen Fieldhouse, a KU student proudly held up a sign in the
north end zone:
“4 4 Years Of My Life, RussRob Has Been What Makes My Heart
Indeed, senior guard Russell Robinson has been shown a lot of love
during his career. And so have the other four members of the senior
class — Jeremy Case, Rodrick Stewart, Sasha Kaun, and Darnell Jackson.
And the love was never greater than Monday night.
The adoration officially began minutes before tipoff when the seniors
were introduced with their parents. One by one, the players carried
flowers and gave them to their loved ones. As the cheerleaders tossed
out flowers on the court, Stewart smiled and did a little shake. Case
pumped his fist in the air, Kaun raised both fists to the heavens,
Robinson grinned from ear to ear, and Jackson walked slowly and
purposely, with flowers in hand, to greet his mom, Shawn, and uncle Ed
with a warm, tight hug.
The 16,300 fans cheered wildly.
And then the seniors posed for pictures with their families.
After highlights of the seniors were shown on the video board and all
were introduced in the starting lineup, the cheers grew even louder.
Heck, the game hadn’t even started but Texas Tech had no
chance. Not with this much emotion, not with this much pride, not with
KU tied for first place with Texas in the Big 12, and certainly not on
Senior Night in the Phog.
Oh sure, the Red Raiders kept it close for the first nine minutes.
Texas Tech was down just 17-14 at the 11:38 mark before the Jayhawks
heated up and went on a 34-12 run to close the half. You just knew it
was KU’s night watching the ‘Hawks last field goal
at the halftime buzzer. Junior guard Mario Chalmers drove the lane,
jumped in the air and threw up a one-handed shot over his head. Junior
forward Darrell Arthur rebounded the air ball and threw it down.
Only on Senior Night.
And KU was just getting started.
The Jayhawks increased their lead to 77-36 when Case took over. The
senior, who had missed his last two shots and hadn’t made a
field goal since Jan. 12 against Nebraska, suddenly caught fire. He
swished his first three ball with 10:16 remaining in the game. After
missing a three-pointer less than a minute later, he ripped the nets
for a three at the 8:47 mark. Twenty seconds later, Case nailed another
three ball for a season-high nine points.
As former KU announcer Max Falkenstien said after the game when
introducing Case for his senior speech: “He found the zone
Case followed up his three quick three-pointers with two assists on the
next two possessions, one dish to fellow senior Stewart, who knocked
down his own three-pointer, his first three since Dec. 5 against
Everybody got in on the action Monday night. In all, 15 of 16 players
scored. And while walk-on Chase Buford didn’t enter the
scoring column, he managed a blocked shot and steal within the last
minute. Senior walk-on Brad Witherspoon, who actually has another year
left in school but will not play next season with his academic demands,
hit two free throws late in the game for his first two points of the
Self took out the seniors for the last time with 1:51 remaining in the
game after Jackson had just made a nifty, driving layup and got fouled.
First, Case and Stewart exited the game. Then Kaun and Robinson headed
to the bench. The Allen Fieldhouse crowd cheered, clapped, and gave
these players some heartfelt love. Robinson, Stewart, Jackson, Case,
and Kaun all embraced their coaches and teammates on the bench.
After Jackson made his free throw for the three-point play, he stood
proudly, waved to the crowd, hugged substitute Matt Kleinmann, and
joined the rest of the seniors on the bench for the last time in Allen
With walk-on Brennan Bechard scoring a layup for the final points of
the game with 21 seconds left, it was all over. The buzzer soon
expired, and KU made history. The 109-51 score was the largest margin
of victory ever in a conference game for Kansas, edging a 56-point win
over Nebraska on Feb. 8, 1958. The 58-point margin was also the biggest
loss in Tech history.
KU scored the most points all year and the most scored in the Bill Self
era. Six players scored in double figures for the first time all
season, led by Robinson with 15. The Jayhawks also dished out a
season-high 27 assists, grabbed a season-best 54 rebounds, and made a
season-high 14 three-point field goals.
After all the energy, after all the emotion, after all the excitement,
the senior speeches began. By the time the speeches were done 24
minutes later, there was probably not a dry eye in the house. Each
senior spoke from the heart about what the fans, academic support,
their teammates, coaches, friends and family meant to them.
When it was Jackson’s time to speak, Stewart brought him some
tissues. Jackson asked his mom to stand up, and with Shawn wiping away
tears, Darnell told her how much he loved her.
Jackson, who has lost several family members during his career,
including his grandmother and a cousin who died just a few weeks ago,
fought back tears during his speech.
“It hurts so bad because I wish I could take your pain away
and put it inside me,” Jackson told his family. “I
And then there was Case. He showed his love to the fans who have given
him and the seniors so much support the last four years.
“Tonight was the best,” he said.
“We’re going to do a lot of great things this year.
The last thing I want to say is you guys (fans) are amazing.
I’ll never forget you guys. I’m so proud to be a
part of this tradition, and it’s all because of
Self was pretty proud of his senior class.
“I’ve never had a better one,” he said
after the game.
And the speeches were top-notch.
“I told them (players) that the writers for (President
George) Bush and (presidential candidate John) McCain and (presidential
candidate Hillary) Clinton and (presidential candidate Barack) Obama,
or whoever, they couldn’t have written better speeches than
what those guys gave tonight,” Self said.
“That’s pretty refreshing and rewarding as a coach
to see that.”
Self said he almost got choked up before the game during the pregame
senior introductions. He relayed to the media what he told his players
after the game.
“Let’s be honest, kids go to school because
they’re in a hurry to get out, at least in the athletic
world,” Self said. “Everyone dreams of being a pro,
and I think it’s great and if the time’s right,
they need to do it. But this is a night these guys will treasure for
the rest of their lives. It’s a shame that not everybody gets
to experience this, because it’s going to mean an awful lot
to them for a long time.”