It wasn’t until the final minute of the Kansas Jayhawks 92-85 win over 14th ranked Tennessee was winding down that Sherron Collins finally let loose. Like a gladiator looking to the crowd for approval after a big kill, the junior point guard summoned the Allen Fieldhouse crowd to their feet and 16,300 strong rose to join Collins and the rest of the Jayhawks as they celebrated their hard fought victory over a ranked opponent.
The synergy with the crowd was something that Collins enjoyed and he
felt it important to point out how much of a difference a wild home
crowd can make.
”I think the crowd was excellent,” said Collins.
“That helped us out a whole lot. They were into the game the
whole time. This was a big game that we needed and the crowd played a
huge part in this win.”
Despite holding a double digit lead for much of the game, Collins and
his team knew that the Volunteers wouldn’t give up easy. It
was a message that Bill Self drove home during practice and one that he
and the Jayhawks took to heart.
”Coach had stressed how hard Tennessee plays,” said
Collins after his game high 26 point and nine assist performance.
“He said that it’s a man’s game and that
if you’re not a man you shouldn’t be out there and
he’s not going to put you out there.
“We took it upon ourselves, getting together and talking
about it and I think we wanted it more. I think our intensity was great
on both ends of the court.”
While Collins penetration and ability to beat the first wave of
Tennessee’s press wreaked havoc on the perimeter, sophomore
center Cole Aldrich dominated on the interior. Slowed briefly by an
awkward 3-2 matchup zone that befuddled he and the rest of the Jayhawks
during the first half, the Minnesota native played like a man in the
lane en route to 22 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
After some up and down performances, Aldrich pointed out how important
it was for a young Kansas team to fight off such a physical and
“They showed heart throughout the whole game, they
didn’t give up,” said Aldrich of the Volunteers.
“I think it was a really good win for us. It puts us back on
our feet and it keeps us building momentum for this real big stretch
that we’ve got coming up here.”
With dangerous Siena coming into Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday and a big
game at Michigan State looming next Saturday, the Jayhawks are just two
games away from the start of Big 12 play meaning that there’s
not much room left for learning.
Justifiably pleased with the monstrous play of his two stars, Bill Self
also pointed out how important it was to get big efforts out of the
Jayhawks supporting cast. Whether it was junior Mario Little stealing
some possessions during his first game of the season, sophomore guard
Brady Morningstar’s underrated 13 point, six assist, four
rebound performance or some big shots in the second half from Tyrel Reed, Self was glad to see some guys not named Collins or Aldrich step
“When we play high-caliber competition, I know its pressure
on them to perform,” said Self of his stars players.
“But, our complimentary players played pretty well
too. Tennessee is really athletic. We played so well early
and took it at them so well, I felt like the only thing that kept us
from not really extending the lead in the first half was makeshift
“We put Mario (Little) in a spot we have never practiced him
in the two days he has practiced. We had makeshift lineups out there,
just trying to make it to halftime. They cut it to seven, and we made
free-throws late. They shot it about as well behind the arc
the last five minutes as they possibly could, and we were still able to
win by seven.”
For a team loaded with youth that had previously struggled during close
games, Self said the win was important for many reasons. Chief among
them being that the game is a signature win in building towards a run
at defending their 2008 national championship in this year’s
Collins, the Jayhawks undisputed leader, agreed that the game was an
important one for confidence as much as anything else. While
he’s not sure that Kansas has completely turned the corner,
he knows they took a big step on Saturday and it’s one that
bodes well for the future.
“I don’t know if we’ve turned the corner
yet,” finished Collins. “But, I know that we took a
big step towards turning the corner today.”
Tennessee Win Important For Young Jayhawks
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