On To Mizzou

Kansas wrapped up the Big 12 last night, but work in the league remains...


      Kansas has wrapped up the outright Big 12 title and has an emotional Senior Night behind it, but the Jayhawks can't quite cruise into the league's postseason tournament.

   There is one game left in the regular season, against a Missouri team that is 22-8 overall, 10-5 in the Big 12, and forces nearly 20 turnovers per game. The Jayhawks easily won the first meeting, 84-65, but they did commit 23 turnovers against all that pressure.

   "It's Missouri, and we haven't won over there the last couple of years," Kansas coach Bill Self said after Wednesday's win over Kansas State. "We have the No. 1 seed locked up, we have the trophy locked up, we have a three-game lead going into Saturday's game. But forget the records, we're playing Missouri, and that's enough said. We'll celebrate this win tonight, but we'll have their full attention by tomorrow afternoon."

   In any case, Kansas (28-2, 14-1) can't afford a hangover from Wednesday night's key victory over the fifth-ranked Wildcats. It was the final home game for Kansas' only senior, star guard Sherron Collins, and, almost certainly, junior center Cole Aldrich.

   Those two helped Kansas go undefeated at home in the past three seasons and extend the Jayhawks' nation-best home winning streak to 59 games.

   "It was a very emotional day," Collins said after the victory. "I was trying not to get too caught up in it, but it was hard not to. I kept remembering it was my last game. All of my teammates kept reminding me. It was wonderful."

   KANSAS 82, KANSAS STATE 65: The Jayhawks took down the second-place team in the Big 12 to win their sixth consecutive Big 12 title. Freshman guard Xavier Henry led the way with 19 points for Kansas, which needed a couple of big runs in the second half to dispatch the Wildcats.

   Kansas State tied the game at 45 with seven consecutive points to begin the second half, but the Jayhawks came back with a 12-2 run. Later, with Kansas leading 59-55, the Jayhawks went on a 16-2 spurt to take control.


   --Maybe conducting a trophy presentation for the Big 12 championship after claiming just a share of the title was an omen.

   Whatever the case, Kansas came out flat in its next game and was never in it at Oklahoma State, falling 85-77. The hot-shooting Cowboys combined clutch 3-point shooting with a 12-for-12 performance from two front-liners to hand the No. 1 Jayhawks their first conference defeat.

   "I didn't have the team ready," conceded senior guard Sherron Collins, whose 22 points didn't come close to offsetting Oklahoma State's hot touch. "I'm the captain. I'm the senior. I should have had us ready to play. It's my full responsibility when the team goes down."

   What coach Bill Self offered in his postgame remarks was a warning as the Jayhawks look ahead to the NCAA Tournament, where they're still a prohibitive favorite for a No. 1 seed.

   "Our toughness level was poor," Self said. "That can't happen in the tournament in a one-and-done deal. Hopefully we can learn and understand. We weren't ready to defend."

   --The 60.4 percent shooting by Oklahoma State in its 85-77 upset of Kansas on Feb. 27 was the best marksmanship in 20 years against the Jayhawks. The last time an opponent was hotter from the floor was in 1990, when Oklahoma shot 62.7 percent while beating Kansas in the second round of the Big Eight Tournament.

   ON THE SPOT: In the first meeting against Missouri, Kansas had a staggering 56-28 edge on the boards, which contributed greatly to the lopsided victory for the Jayhawks. If C Cole Aldrich repeats his effort against the Tigers -- 12 points, 16 rebounds -- Kansas will have a great chance of dominating inside, silencing the home crowd and making the atmosphere a little less frenetic on Saturday.

   QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am believing we can get something out of (the OSU loss). I don't think the thing is broken. I do think we need to evaluate our things. We need to take great pride in the things that help us win, especially this time of year." -- Kansas coach Bill Self.


   SEASON RECAP: It could be the loss at Oklahoma State was a sign of fate for Kansas. The last time the Jayhawks visited Stillwater, in 2008, they suffered a one-point defeat. Then they went on to win out, capturing the NCAA title. The defeat also meant that the only team to ever go undefeated in Big 12 play remains the 2001-02 Jayhawks squad coached by Roy Williams.

   PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marcus Morris, C Cole Aldrich, G Xavier Henry, G Tyshawn Taylor, G Sherron Collins. Key Subs -- F Markieff Morris, G Brady Morningstar, G Tyrel Reed.


   Kansas 94, Colorado 74

   Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68

   Oklahoma State 85, Kansas 77

   Kansas 82, Kansas State 65


   at Missouri, Saturday, March 6

   at Big 12 tournament, March 10-13

   IN FOCUS: If a message was sent to a certain player during the loss at Oklahoma State, it was C Cole Aldrich. The junior logged just eight minutes in the second half and was limited to 11 points and five rebounds. Neither his presence, nor that of any of the other Kansas front-liners, prevented the Oklahoma State inside tandem of F Matt Pilgrim and F Marshall Moses from going 12-for-12 collectively for 26 points.


   --Senior G Sherron Collins might have gotten caught up in the all the emotions of Senior Night as he missed eight of nine shots in the first half against Kansas State before recovering his shot and finishing with 17 points. "In the beginning I was really jittery," he said. "I was a little too anxious and wasn't playing well. I was shooting quick shots and guarded shots, but the coaches kept telling me to relax and play the game. I just had to take a couple of deep breaths. I had a little pep talk with myself at halftime, and everybody else was so confident."

   --Freshman G Xavier Henry had a team-high 19 points against Kansas State, leading the Jayhawks in scoring for the fifth time in six games. He has scored at least 15 points in seven consecutive games.

   --Junior C Cole Aldrich had a fairly quiet night against Kansas State -- nine points, four rebounds and three blocks -- but he did reach more milestones. His 109 blocks are tied for second on the school's single-season list, and he has 800 rebounds in his career, the 12th Kansas player to hit that level.

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