Blake Griffin was the main storyline entering the game with word he'd sit out the contest with a concussion. But it was Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor and Sherron Collins who became the story, all playing a pivotal role in KU's 87-78 victory over Oklahoma Monday night in Norman.
The Jayhawks (23-5, 12-1 Big 12) now sit atop the Big 12 standings over
OU (25-3, 11-2) and Missouri (23-4, 10-2) with just three games
remaining in the regular season.
Aldrich (15 points) set a career high with 20 rebounds, freshman guard
Taylor scored a career-best 26 points, and Collins (26 points)
dominated the second half with 22 points, swishing three clutch treys
from beyond the NBA three-point line during a 2:35 stretch late in the
game (5:08 to 2:33 mark).
"I was feeling it," Collins said.
No shot was bigger than Collins' 25-footer from the top of the key with
KU up just three (74-71) with 2:33 remaining. OU got not closer than
six points the remainder of the game.
"He shook me off," KU coach Bill Self said about the play. "I'm
calling, ‘Let's get it to the paint with a ball screen. He said, ‘No,
this is my game, coach. Don't screw it up for me.' I'm not very bright,
but I'm smart enough to listen to a guy that's feeling it like he was
"Sherron was fabulous. He took the game over."
While Collins "was feeling it" the second half, Taylor stole the show
in the first half with 16 points. He helped key a huge KU rally,
propelling KU back from a 22-8 deficit to lead 36-29 at halftime.
Kansas kept on attacking the second half and led by as many as 20
points (58-38 at the 10:38 mark) before OU furiously rallied with
three-point bombs and cut KU's lead to three (71-68) with 3:40 left.
But that's when Collins hit two straight threes as Kansas pulled away.
OU, which lost its second straight game, struggled from the free-throw
line (19-30). Forward Ryan Wright went 0 for 5. KU had its free-throw
shooting woes as well late in the game (20-30 in second half).
Freshman guard Willie Warren led Oklahoma with 23 points, while forward
Juan Pattillo added 15.
Self was thrilled with the victory.
"This team is unbelievable as far as showing some toughness," Self said
about KU's comeback win and the Jayhawks outscoring the Sooners by 34
points during a stretch after being down 14 in the first half.
"We looked horrible (the first part of the first half). We had eight
points if I'm not mistaken with nine minutes left and we score 79
points the rest of the game and missed all our free throws late."
Self admitted he got nervous during OU's second-half rally.
"They just started throwing them in from everywhere," he said.
While Self acknowledged KU "caught a huge break" with the 6-10
Griffin's absence, he loved the team's moxie and composure coming away
with the victory in a hostile environment of 12,625 rabid Sooners' fans.
"What a great win," Self gushed. "I'm so proud of our team. The bench
was fabulous. Travis (Releford, one point and two rebounds) was great.
Markieff (Morris, seven points and two boards) was great. Mario
(Little, two points and two rebounds) didn't play a lot (due to foul
trouble), but he was fine. Tyrel (Reed, three points) was good.
Quintrell (Thomas, two rebounds in four minutes) gave us good minutes
because we had to piece it together because we were in such foul
trouble. ... The guys just hung in there."
KU next hosts Missouri on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.
"We control our own destiny (to win the Big 12 title)," Self said.
"There's no question about that. We got to win three more games, though.
"We're 6-1 on the road (in Big 12 play) and we gave that one away at
Missouri (62-60 loss on Feb. 9), which may have been the best thing to
happen to us, hindsight. We've taken everyone's best shots from a crowd
standpoint and these guys have shown a lot of poise as far as coming
back and hanging in there and finishing games late."
Indeed, KU has come a long way since being blown out at Michigan State,
75-62, on Jan. 10.
"I just can't get over the progress these young kids have made," Self
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