Kansas is ranked No. 1, has lost only one game and
has clinched at least a share of the Big 12 championship with three
games to play. Good stuff -- right, Bill Self?
"It's hard to be critical when you win a league
and are 27-1 overall," the Kansas coach said after Monday night's
victory over Oklahoma. "But you've got to have a killer instinct and
bury people. We didn't bury them tonight, and it should have been a
game where everybody got to play."
True, Kansas led by as many as 23 in the second
half before the visiting Sooners cut the lead to 12 on a couple of
occasions in the final three minutes. The Jayhawks won 81-68.
Other than not burying the Sooners, any reason to
Kansas (27-1, 13-0) has at least a share of its
sixth consecutive Big 12 title, and it would take a startling set of
circumstances for the Jayhawks to not win it outright. Only Kansas State has a chance to tie for the regular-season championship. K-State
and KU meet March 3 in Lawrence.
Before that is Saturday's game at Oklahoma State,
which entered the week 19-7 and was coming off a home win over ranked
Baylor. The Cowboys had a Wednesday game at Texas before playing the
Through Monday's games, OSU wing James Anderson
was leading the league in scoring at 22.8 points per game, and the
Cowboys had taken the second-most 3-point shots (although their 35.0
percent accuracy was just 11th in the Big 12).
"It is a game in which you're going to have to
guard the perimeter," Self said.
"They make threes and they rebound the ball well.
They've done a really nice job down there, and their arena will be
jumping. We know we're going to have to be better than we were tonight
in the second half. Our guys will be excited."
Kansas held Anderson to 10 points, on 3-of-13
shooting, in last year's only meeting with Oklahoma State -- a Jayhawks
KANSAS 81, OKLAHOMA 68: The Jayhawks never trailed
as they won their sixth straight over the Sooners and extended the
nation's longest home winning streak to 58 games. Freshman Xavier Henry
scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half as Kansas led 44-29 at
halftime and was never really threatened after that. Senior guard
Sherron Collins, who had 17 points, became the winningest player in KU
history (the Jayhawks have a 124-17 record in the last four seasons).
Junior guard Brady Morningstar also has been with the program for the
last four seasons although he redshirted as a freshman.
--Back in the good graces of his coach, Tyshawn Taylor found himself back in the starting lineup for Kansas.
The sophomore guard has experienced a checkered
season, which began with his role in a campus fight between the
basketball and football teams. Taylor suffered a dislocated thumb in
that incident, then wrote Facebook posts questioning his role on the
team and broaching the possibility of a transfer.
Obviously, all the transgressions upset coach Bill
Self, who reduced the minutes Taylor was playing in an effort to cause
him to recommit himself. The ploy apparently worked. Taylor longs to be
a starter and looked good in his return to the lineup, scoring 17
points on 6-for-7 shooting as Kansas belted Colorado 94-74 on Feb. 20.
"For us to be the best we can be, he has to be one
of our best players," Self said. "He's got a different gear than
anybody else, and you've got to have your best players playing their
Taylor is most adept at breaking down defenses,
especially off the dribble, as the quickest player on the Kansas squad.
He not only can score off penetration, but can also make the Jayhawks
deadly if he kicks the ball to open shooters such as Sherron Collins,
Xavier Henry, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed.
If Taylor can follow up on the start he enjoyed
against Colorado, and continues to improve, the Jayhawks will be even
more formidable. As it is, they're threatening to join the 2001-02
Kansas squad as the only teams to ever go undefeated in the Big 12.
--Kansas has clinched at least a share of the
conference title. It is the sixth straight crown for Kansas, the
longest streak by a team from a power (BCS) conference since UCLA
claimed 13 straight championships in the Pac-8/Pac-10 from 1967-79. The
conference title is the 53rd for the Jayhawks, though the only other
time they captured six straight was from 1922-27 in the Missouri Valley.
ON THE SPOT: Kansas has worked hard to get where
it is, so now is not the time to get complacent. The Jayhawks have to
maintain interest after clinching a share of the Big 12 title, and the
schedule should help in that regard. KU plays at dangerous Oklahoma
State on Saturday, gets sixth-ranked Kansas State on March 3 and
finishes at frenetic Missouri on March 6. "Three of the toughest games
that we'll play during the course of the conference season will be our
last three," said coach Bill Self.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think (the Colorado win) is as
good as we've been having multiple guys on (target)." -- Kansas coach
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Except for a nonconference loss at
Tennessee, Kansas has found a way to win, relying on a variety of
offensive threats. What is often overlooked, however, is the stout
defense the Jayhawks play. Going into this week, they were the only
team in the Big 12 holding opponents to below 40 percent (.386)
shooting in conference play. Their 66.7-point allowance in Big 12 play
was also tops in the league.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marcus Morris, C Cole Aldrich, G Tyshawn Taylor, G Xavier Henry, G Sherron
Collins. Key Subs -- G Brady Morningstar, F Markieff Morris, G Tyrel
Kansas 73, Iowa State 59.
Kansas 59, Texas A&M 54.
Kansas 94, Colorado 74.
Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68
at Oklahoma State, Saturday, Feb. 27.
vs. Kansas State, Wednesday, March 3.
at Missouri, Saturday, March 6.
at Big 12 Tournament, March 10-13.
IN FOCUS: The schedule has saved the best for
last, but the Jayhawks can use these three tough games as a springboard
into the conference tournament. Of course, these games also could slow
their momentum heading into the postseason.
--Junior C Cole Aldrich was selected Monday as the
ESPN The Magazine CoSIDA Basketball Academic All-American of the Year.
"If I was a parent of somebody that had the choice of being an
All-American or winning an Academic All-America award, I would say win
the Academic All-America award," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "That's a
remarkable accomplishment. We are really proud of him. This is
something that he wanted, and he went after it and got it."
--Freshman G Xavier Henry was chosen as the Big 12
Rookie of the Week for his role in two victories last week. He averaged
18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds vs. Texas A&M and Colorado,
shooting 12 of 25 from the field. Henry had a personal conference-best
24 points vs. the Buffaloes, and he nearly matched that with 23 against
Oklahoma on Monday, which gave him a good start on another Big 12
rookie weekly honor. He made his first eight field goal attempts vs.
--Sophomore G Tyshawn Taylor made his second
consecutive start after having come off the bench for nine games. He
scored 11 points in 23 minutes vs. Oklahoma.