Which is why I enjoyed the last 13:34 of this Big 12 dogfight.
Like it or not, Baylor's a really good offensive team. The Bears are the best shooting team in the conference falling away from 25 feet with two guys hanging all over them. Think Slaver alum Clarence Gilbert, except the shots go in. They're the only Kansas opponent in the last 92 games to shoot better than 50% for the game, and most of Baylor's shots came with a Jayhawk in their face.
Their 3-2 defense was somewhat stagnant but poses problems simply because they go 7-0, 6-10, 6-10 across the front court.
And say what you want about coach Scott Drew, but they're no longer a conference basketball doormat. Sure, he instructed his team to leave the sideline so they wouldn't have to watch the pregame video and listen to the announcement of the KU starters. That could be construed as, well, disrespectful. I also can't help but wonder if he's cheating his arsenal off to get good players to Waco. I've seen pictures of Waco; he has to be cheating.
Sorry. Sometimes I get off-message…
Look, I enjoy the Sherron Collins Hoopsfest Jamboree Hootenanny and Steak Fry as much as the next guy. He made some huge shots to put a little bit of distance between his Jayhawks and the Bears midway through the second period, and when Baylor tied the game with three minutes remaining, he was clutch yet again.
But for those last minutes of the game, it wasn't four guys watching Sherron work like it's a live production of "Hoosiers: The Musical." I'll even go so far as to say that the past few games, Collins' teammates weren't so much deferring to their senior leader but rather trying to get rid of the ball in crunch time.
On Wednesday, the Jayhawks looked a lot more like they really wanted to be on the floor in a pressure-packed situation. They were enjoying it, for crying out loud.
LaceDarius Dunn made one of two charities to tie the game at 43 with 13:34 remaining. Sherron went about the business of just being Sherron, scoring 15 and dishing some big assists down the stretch, but other guys stepped up:
- Marcus Morris came up big, scoring 10 in that stretch.
- Markieff Morris grabbed an offensive rebound and went back up strong with it, scoring.
- Cole Aldrich made a turnaround jumper, but he also grabbed an offensive rebound off a Marcus Morris FT miss and kicked it out to Sherron Collins, who buried the three that put KU up, 65-55.
- Xavier Henry, who'd been tentative lately in tight games, made a nice leaning 10-footer as well as knocking down a pair of late free throws. He also had a good look at a three with 5:02 left, stepped up and took the shot. He missed, but you're missing the point. The point is, he didn't hesitate; he shot the ball with confidence.
- Tyshawn Taylor, who was The Human Turnover against Tennessee, didn't score in the game but did a terrific job valuing the ball, handing out five assists with no turnovers in 15 minutes, most of them in the second period.
- Brady Morningstar made two free throws to stake the Jayhawks to a 67-65 lead with 3:13 left. Maybe more important, his defense was key in containing Bears star LaceDarius Dunn to six points in the last 13:34, including a meaningless free throw with just three seconds remaining.
Kansas' 81-75 win over Baylor was a good win. Of course, I contend any win in conference is a good win, but if this long, lanky Bears team improves through the next six weeks, they could be a 6- or maybe even a 5-seed that no one wants to play come March.
KU coach Bill Self had been challenging his team of late. He reminded them that his teams had always had a knack for embracing high-pressure situations. They're why you play, he'd say. They separate contenders from pretenders. They reveal preparation, competitive fire and character. Above all, he said, they should be fun.
I'm not as giddy about Wednesday night's 81-75 win as the coach was, but I am encouraged that while it's clear he led the team to victory, the star of the Sherron Collins Show finally got some much-needed help down the stretch from some of his featured – and very talented – performers.