KU Completes Drive For Five

Kansas overcame a 14-point deficit and won the outright Big 12 regular season title but it was a 1 minute, 40 second stretch that proved key for the Jayhawks.

The crowd was working to get their Jayhawks back into it but the outlook was bleak late in the first half. Texas jumped all over KU early and you had to wonder if Kevin Durant left behind his superman cape in the Texas locker room. Longhorn forward Damion James put on a Durant-like first half shooting percentage torching KU for 20 points. James netted eight field goals in the half, the most since Durant converted on ten field goal attempts back in 2007.

"It was just a bad half and they took advantage of it, just like they did two years ago when (Kevin) Durant came to town," said KU head coach Bill Self referring to the 2007 game in the Fieldhouse. "The only difference was that it was (Damion) James that had 20 points at halftime instead of Durant that had 25 at halftime. They had us down by 17 that game, I think, and today it was 14."

This wasn't the way things were SUPPOSED to go for KU. The Jayhawks were coming off a frustrating loss against Texas Tech, playing for an outright title, it was senior day, a frenzied crowd in attendance, and the Hawks had a chance to extend the nation's longest home court winning streak – all plenty of reasons to expect KU to win this one.

A double-digit first half deficit to Rick Barnes squad was not in the script but once again Kansas found a way with under two minutes left in the half.

On Monday during the Big 12 teleconference, KU head coach Bill Self was asked about his team's efficiency at the end of first halves this season. Self proclaimed that his team works on it, but not enough to equal the efficiency they've had this season. KU's 6th year head coach attributed most of the success to having a guy that can make a play in Sherron Collins. Saturday, Collins again came through with a key steal and another critical assist. Against Missouri a 19-point game became a 26-point bulge at the half, and less than a week later, KU sliced a 14-point Longhorn advantage in half.

"I told our guys at halftime; the first thing I said to them was that the last minute of the half won the game for us because it went from 14 to seven," Self recalled. "That's a great lesson for our team to learn, how important it is to finish the half. We went on a 7-0 run to get it back to where we didn't have momentum, but at least we could see the light at the end of the tunnel."

"He told us we did a good job of competing late in the half.  We needed to come out in the second half and do the same. I think we responded well. He was really positive and happy that we brought it from 14 to seven points. Tyrel (Reed) hit a big three at the end (of the half) and we were able to build off of that," said Collins referring to a three by Reed with eight seconds left in the half.

"I told the team at halftime that we lost a few possessions in the first half because we got away from what we wanted to do," said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. "We turned it over and allowed them to make some plays."

"He (Coach Self) told us our 7-0 run before halftime just won us the game," said Brady Morningstar. "After the game he mentioned that again. I think getting a lot of momentum going in to halftime helps you out coming into the second half and I think it showed today."

It gave KU life and much-needed momentum. The second half was a much different story. James was plagued by foul trouble and was blanked from the floor in the second half (6 points). Kansas outscored the Longhorns 46-29 in the final 20 minutes.

"In the second half they came out and went at us," said Barnes. "We knew that (Kansas) was going to make a run. They are a good basketball team. All I wanted to do was to be in the position we were in with four minutes to go. But we could have been in a better position if we had made some shots."

"Our guys played great in the second half. We defended, we rebounded, we didn't turn it over. Sherron (Collins) missed shots and still we played great," Self continued. "That was a really tough team in the second half. The crowd was unbelievable. They gave us energy."

While Barnes was left to lament some Texas misses from close range Kansas also locked up the sharp-shooting A.J. Abrams. Abrams finished with 2-11 from the floor with most of the staunch defense coming from Morningstar. Brady had been struggling on both ends of the court in recent games but put the wraps on Abrams. Morningstar also found his stroke and connected on 3-4 from long range including a critical one that pushed KU's lead from 73-71 to 76-71 with 3:25 to go.

"I told my teammates that if we were going to win this game we were going to have to play a solid game defensively and offensively," stated Morningstar. "I wanted the challenge of trying to shut down A.J.  It's a tough challenge and he's a great player, but I just chased him around."

In the end KU was able to remain composed, complete another comeback, and win by 10 (83-73). Kansas becomes the first team in the Big 8/Big 12 era to win five straight conference titles.

"The other times that I've been here, it would've been a poor year if we didn't win the league. This year I wouldn't have thought that," said Self. "I do think, not only to win the league, but to win it outright and match our team from a couple years ago with the 14-2 record speaks volumes for these guys and shows their maturity."

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