Bill Self admits his No. 1 Jayhawks have been a tired team lately. KU, indeed, has labored the last…
KU Jumps Out Early, Wins 94-74
KU out-rebounded the Buffs 40-25 and held them to 44.6 percent shooting for the contest.
KU never trailed in the game, building a 21-point first-half lead and generally slapping around the same Colorado team that took them to overtime (without their best player) just 17 days ago. The Buffs managed to keep the game within arm's reach in the first half, thanks to some defensive lapses by Kansas and a streak of good three-point shooting. A buzzer-beating lay-up by Xavier Henry staked KU to a 48-34 lead.
Despite playing well, the Jayhawks were disappointed that they failed to put Colorado away early on.
"We still let 'em back in the game," Collins lamented. "At times, we still broke down – little mistakes we gotta correct."
"They had 14 points with six minutes left in the first half or whatever, and then we just don't guard 'em after that. Then they score 20 points the last six minutes against us, so that's not very good," Self said.
"We gave up 74 (points) in our building," he continued. "We didn't knock anybody out like we should've. That should've been a knockout blow, and we didn't deliver it."
Interestingly, KU pulled away in the second half in atypical fashion. It wasn't one big 21-4 run that put Colorado away. The Jayhawks went on mini-runs of the 7-0 and 8-2 variety that created some space between them and Ralphie and accounted for the final 20-point margin. Colorado wasn't out of the game until the final 10 minutes, but one never really got the feeling that the Buffaloes were ever really in the game very long after the first media time-out, either.
Self was pleased with his offense. For the first time this year, just about everyone who was expected to contribute did.
"I think that's about as good as we've been as far as having multiple guys on," Self admitted. "I thought Tyshawn was great. I thought X was great. Cole was great and everybody else still played well."
Henry picked up his first 20-point game in the Big 12 on a variety of shots, from long-range threes to drives in the lane. Taylor poked at Henry a little at the press table with, "Coulda had 30 if he'd made some more threes."
"My teammates were findin' me and the shots were fallin'," Henry said, matter-of-factly. "When you got a wide open shot, take it. If somebody's crowdin' ya, go ahead and take it to the rim."
But his performance wasn't so matter-of-fact to his teammates. Henry was asked if he was relieved to get that first 20-point conference game, and Collins grabbed the microphone and volunteered, "I'm gonna answer for him: yes!"
Self said that Henry appeared to be out of his "freshman funk."
"The last four games, he's been as good a player as we have on our team," the coach said.
In his dual role as Henry's press agent and point guard, Collins played a key role on the offensive end of the floor for the first time in a few games.
"Yeah, it's a relief, but I knew it was gonna come back around. I wasn't down in my head. The shots just weren't fallin' the last two games. It happens."
He said that he felt fresher, post-game, than he'd felt in some time, thanks to his team's performance – Taylor's, in particular – and knowing he can turn the point guard reins over to teammates who will respond. It's also worth noting that Collins played just 29 minutes, which is three-and-a-half below his season average.
In a crowd of terrific performances, though, it was Taylor's afternoon. His 17 points came on 6-of-7 shooting after Self announced midweek that he would return to the starting line-up, replacing Brady Morningstar. Maybe Taylor's biggest contribution, however, was the bounce he brought to the Jayhawks' step. That spark was a welcome sign from a Kansas team that had played tired the last two games. He said he was just following orders.
"I felt real good today," Taylor said. "I was just bein' aggressive like Coach wants me to be. I wasn't really thinkin' about scoring; I was just thinkin' about findin' my teammates and playin' defense, and my shots were fallin'. I was making a lot of easy lay-ups, I made the one wide-open three I had, so I was just being aggressive."
Self said his decision to start Taylor was to give the team a little more... well, I'll let him say it.
"I wanted to give us a quicker start with a little but more 'oomph' – the term I learned in Oklahoma – to get us some speed, some energy. I don't know it's gonna get us off to a faster start, but I thought we should really get after people better. Nothin' against Brady, but Tyshawn's the fastest guy we have on our team, so he should be able to do things that other guys can't."
All of this came together to allow KU fans to see something else they hadn't seen in weeks: the KU bench emptying. Everyone in uniform played. Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson each helped out with a late bucket.
KU wraps up their NCAA prep class of three straight Saturday-Monday series when they welcome the underachieving Oklahoma Sooners to the friendly confines Monday night. Like every other game in the conference, however, Self said this one isn't a gimme.
"They haven't had the year some people thought they'd have, but they're very capable," Self cautioned.
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