Sherron Collins (Steve Puppe photo)
KANSAS CITY, MO. — KU’s 2,000 all-time win sure didn’t come easy in its opening-round game against Texas Tech in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at Sprint Center.
The No. 1 Jayhawks (30-2) overcame a late morning funk and a pesky Red
Raiders’ team, winning 80-68 and advancing to the semifinals on Friday
at 6 p.m. (CT) against Texas A&M. The Aggies beat Nebraska,
70-64, in their quarterfinal game.
KU coach Bill Self certainly wasn’t thrilled with his team’s play, but
happy his Jayhawks are moving on.
“I never thought we guarded them or got any rhythm defensively,” Self
said. “I thought they played good. I thought we obviously played much
better the second half, and we had some guys step up and make some big
shots. But that wasn't the energy level that I would hope that we would
play with from this point forward.”
While the Jayhawks didn’t bring their ‘A’ game, they were excited to
notch the school’s 2,000 win. Kentucky (2,017) and North Carolina
(2,000) are the only other programs in the 2,000-victory club.
The Jayhawks donned their new 2,000-win shirts after the game.
“I think it does speak volumes worth of history and tradition of the
program,” Self said. “We're very proud of it. It hadn't been a big
point of emphasis for this team, but I think the guys respect the past
enough to know it's a big deal.”
Indeed, they do.
“It’s exciting to be part of the 2,000 win because very few programs
have that opportunity,” junior center Cole Aldrich said. “I think when
we're all done playing basketball we'll have a reunion and just kind of
hang our hats on just being a small part of that 2,000. Having so many
great players at the university that played before us is really
KU certainly didn’t look like a “special” team team opening the 11:30
a.m. game. The Jayhawks were sluggish as Tech controlled the tempo the
first half, limiting the Jayhawks to two fastbreak points (four points
for the game) and scoring 10 points off seven Kansas turnovers. KU had
just three offensive rebounds the first stanza and shot a poor 35.7
percent from the field.
TTU took its first lead (15-14) on a layup by Robert Lewandowski at the
10:29 mark before KU went on an 11-2 run to lead 25-17. The Red Raiders
then rallied to tie the game at 28-all with 3:37 left before halftime.
Holding just a 34-32 halftime lead, Kansas opened the second half on a
10-2 run, keyed by five points from senior guard Sherron Collins.
KU led 49-37 with 15:38 remaining and it looked like the Jayhawks might
run TTU out of the Sprint Center. But Pat Knight’s Red Raiders would
not go away. Tech cut KU’s lead to five points three times and
eventually to two (65-63) with 5:55 remaining.
After TTU guard John Roberson missed a 10-footer, KU soon responded
with a deep three by Collins and another three ball by Xavier Henry
from the right baseline to regain some much-needed momentum.
“The crowd got into it, and we fed off of that,” Collins said.
The Jayhawks held Tech scoreless for five minutes as Kansas closed the
game on a 15-5 run to win its 30th game of the season.
Collins, who was limited to 26 minutes with foul trouble, led five
Jayhawks in double figures with 19 points. Henry scored 13, Marcus Morris and Aldrich 12 each, and Markieff Morris had 11 points. Aldrich
tied his season high with 18 rebounds.
Roberson and senior forward Darko Cohadarevic led Tech with 14 points
KU rebounded from its poor shooting first half to make 51.9 percent of
its shots the second half. The Jayhawks shot just 43.6 percent for the
game, yet were 8 of 16 from three point range. TTU, meanwhile, shot
only 40 percent and was outrebounded 45 to 34.
The Jayhawks know they’ll have to play with more energy during Friday’s
semifinal game against A&M to advance to the tournament final.
“It's one of those things we've got to come together as a team and
create our own energy and get the whole team involved with getting
pumped up for the game, whether it's at 11:30 in the morning or 8:00 at
night,” Aldrich said.
Self believes his team will be ready.
“Hopefully, we’ll be a lot better tomorrow,” Self said.