Little Guys Make the Difference
Jeff Graves works for rebound (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
The Nebraska Cornhuskers came into Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon, looking to possibly steal a Big 12 road victory from a weakened Kansas squad. No doubt, the Jayhawks were all thinking about their teammate Wayne Simien, winged with a dislocated shoulder and expected to be out for at least another week. They might also have been thinking of that blowout road victory over Iowa State earlier in the week, leaving them a bit complacent at tipoff.
Nebraska Coach Barry Collier commented that this Husker squad might just be the best in his tenure. Led by Sophmore Jake Muhleisen, Nebraska was coming off of a three-game winning streak.
What Coach Collier might not have counted on was not only the solid play of junior Jeff Graves, but the take charge play of Senior Kirk Hinrich at the close of the first half, and the solid minutes from the rest of the KU's perimeter players all afternoon.
With 4:00 left in the first half, KU had a six-point lead, and the KU offense was struggling. Trapped in a halfcourt offense that couldn't find their rythm from outside, Kirk Hinrich answered the call, scoring 9 of KU's final 11 points in the half, including a floater in the lane as the half expired with Kansas leading 40-28.
After finishing the first half with 19 points, Hinrich talled a season-high 28 points on 9-16 shooting from the floor and 3-4 from deep. Sophomore Keith Langford turned in another strong performance with 18 points, 7 rebounds and nailing 2-2 from behind the 3-point line.
Aaron Miles spectacular on-the-ball defense continued this afternoon, and Miles also added 8 assists and 8 points in the effort. Fellow Oregonian Michael Lee came in off the bench handling the ball well and scoring 8 points.
Down low, Jeff Graves added a Kansas career high 11 points and 12 rebounds. Nick Collison, coming off of a 31 point effort at Iowa State, finished with 10 points and 8 boards.