Collins Shoves KU Past Cornell

Cornell gave No. 1 Kansas everything they had Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. But Sherron Collins gave the Big Red a little bit more.

The KU senior guard scored a career-high 33 points while rallying the Jayhawks to a thrilling 71-66 victory.

No points were bigger than the three-point play he made after KU coach Bill Self called a 30-second timeout with 46 seconds left and Cornell leading 64-63.

With everyone in Allen Fieldhouse knowing that Sherron Collins was the go-to man, the fearless 5-11 Chicago native stepped up and delivered, blowing by his defender and driving the lane for layup and a foul, swishing the free throw to give KU a lead (66-64) it would never relinquish.

"I got to get a basket," Collins replied when asked what he was thinking before the play. "I got to make something happen. I knew I could get past the first defender. My thought was who was going to help and I didn't want to draw a charge. ... I had isolation and it was too late to help and he (Cornell senior guard Geoff Reeves) fouled me."

Collins said Self "drew up the perfect play."

"We drew Brady (Morningstar) up to fake the ball screen," Collins said. "I acted like I was going to go to it, (but instead I did) a quick crossover to get to the basket. He (defender) thought I was going to go to the ball screen."

Collins then made three of four free throws to put Kansas up 69-66 with 15 ticks left. After Cornell senior forward Ryan Wittman missed a three-pointer five seconds later, KU freshman Xavier Henry iced the game with two charities.

Collins, who scored 15 of KU's final 22 points in the last 8:49 as the Jayhawks erased a 55-49 deficit, grabbed the final rebound of the game with one second remaining. He took a couple of dribbles and tossed the ball high in the air at the buzzer as the fans rocked Allen Fieldhouse in celebration.

It sure wasn't easy, but the undefeated Jayhawks had just won their 14th game this season and 51st consecutive home game.

"We needed to be tested," Collins said. "They took us to the limit."

But Cornell had no answer for Collins, who shot 9-of-16 from the field and an eye-popping 13-of-14 from the free-throw line. He broke his previous career high of 32, set last March in the first round of the NCAA tournament against North Dakota State.

This game also had a feel of March Madness. The Jayhawks had to grind out a win on a night they shot just 36.7 percent from the field, including a dismal 31.8 percent in the second half. Cornell controlled the game after halftime until Collins dominated late.

"Tonight was like a tournament game," Collins said. "Things are not going good, (so) you got to find some way to win.

"I wouldn't let us lose."

No, he wouldn't.

Time after time this evening, Collins drove to the basket and made layups. Time after time, Collins exploded to the bucket and got fouled. And time after time, Collins stepped to the free-throw line and made his charities.

"That's the Sherron Collins we love," junior center Cole Aldrich said.

With about 11 minutes left, Collins said he knew he had to take over.

"That's when I told myself I'm going to make every play."

And he just about did.

"I think he's the best guard in the country," Self said. "Tonight, he showed he was definitely the best guard in the country. I thought he was fabulous and put us on his back."

Collins, who entered the game averaging 13.8 points (down from 18.9 ppg last season), hadn't needed to score much this season with the Jayhawks coasting to several easy victories.

"It's been a little different," he said. "I know I can do it. I did it last year all the time. I wasn't too worried about my scoring going down. I don't care. I just want to win. That's what I'm here for. It's my last year, I want to go out with a bang. Whatever I have to do to win, that's what I'm going to do.

"And tonight I just had to score."

The Jayhawks are sure glad he did.

"He showed his leadership and why they say he's the best guard in the country," Henry said. "He can do everything for us when we need him to. ... When we saw him (taking over) we got out of the way. He didn't really say too much to us, we just knew when he got the ball he was going to take care of it."

While Collins' scoring has decreased this season, his teammates and coaches know he'll always step up when KU needs him the most.

And the Jayhawks needed him more than ever against Cornell.

"He's one of those guys who's really deferred to everybody else to get (them) involved," Self said, "but everyone on our team knows who's the guy at crunch time. He's done a good job of involving other guys, but tonight was his time to go make plays.

"Fortunately for us, we got in the bonus early in the second half and then we scrapped everything we did and said, ‘drive it.' The guys were patient throughout to have the ball come back to Sherron. He was the guy who initiated, he was the guy that drove it to finish it.

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