LAWRENCE, Kan. - Xavier Henry scored 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half to lead No. 1…
Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud
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 complain?
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 Jayhawks.
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 victory.
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 best."
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 Bill Self.
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 Reed.
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. the Sooners.
--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.
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