KU couldn't have scripted it better.
How else would the Jayhawks prefer to cap off an impressive 15-1 mark
in Big 12 play than with two big wins over their two biggest rivals? A
17-point margin at home vs. K-State on Wednesday was followed up by a
21-point drubbing at Missouri. Included in that 15-1 record, a 4-0
advantage against the school's nearest and most bitter rivals.
"I think it's a great accomplishment," head coach Bill Self said after
the victory. "Winning the league is an accomplishment in a year where
the league is so good. I'm real proud of our guys. One thing about the
league we put a lot of emphasis on winning the league but we thought
this would be the hardest year for us to win the league in large part
because of our road games against the south teams were against three of
the four best teams in the south."
Kansas wasn't looking like the conference champ early on and got off to
an inauspicious start.
"We were pretty sped up early. We had five turnovers and we were down
17-10 and then the next 12 minutes we had two so at least we got some
looks at the basket and we made a couple of big shots, started getting
the ball inside getting some easy baskets. We defended them pretty well
for the most part the entire day."
It was really two separate impressive runs that broke this game open
twice. There weren't many baskets exchanged in what turned out to be
definitive game of runs. Reminiscent of a run earlier in the year at
Texas, KU ran off 16-straight points to end the half giving the
Jayhawks a 40-24 lead at the break.
"Last year we had a 14-point lead at halftime if I'm not mistaken and
got beat," Self recalled. "We talked about that at halftime. The talk
was so good we almost came out and gave it away in the first eight
minutes. So they didn't even need the whole 20 to cut the lead."
It was a fact Self could smile about after the fact. But in the second
half the Tigers got the crowd back into it quickly slicing the lead to
four (44-40). The Jayhawks had seen enough and fired off a 20-4 run to
put the game away for good.
"You could say that but you could also say they're playing two Kansas
teams too because we went through a stretch," said Self answering
whether he saw two different Mizzou teams out there today. "When they
were good we were really bad. And when we were good they weren't as
good. It was one of those games where we run off a big run and then
they would run off a big run so you could say that about both teams
That second run came just after Marcus Morris (12 points, 10 rebounds)
took a scary fall into the scorer's table and headed to the lockerroom.
A heart-stopping moment for fans for sure but Marcus suffered just a
cut wrist and did not sustain a concussion. By the time Morris returned
to the lineup his team had taken control of the game once again.
This one actually had a lot of similarities to the first meeting
between the two schools this season. For the second straight time this
season Mike Anderson's squad struggled with the size of the Jayhawks
losing the rebounding battle by 17 and giving up 42 points in the
"We did rebound the ball good today. We've been an average rebounding
team at best against a certain style of team. We gotta get where we're
a little tougher in that area," Self continued. "Basketball's a weird
game. You may like how you'll playing today and two days later what's
happened and now we're struggling and two days later thinking now we're
starting to get it. Right now I think we're on an uptick."
Depth is a critical element to beating MU because its pressure can take
its toll. Both teams had their moments when they looked to be gassed
but at the end Kansas appeared the fresher team.
"I thought our bench kept our starters fresh," said head coach Bill
Self who got 23 points off the bench in this one. "I thought when you
watched us play out there you really couldn't tell who our best five
players were because I thought they all contributed positively – I
didn't feel like we had to get our starters back in. That to me was the
most pleasing this about our bench play.
Off that bench no one has been more pleased to see the gold and black
this season than Tyrel Reed. Reed is a combined 7-9 from three-point
range against Mizzou scoring 25 points. Reed's last two games in
double-figures just happen to be both matchups against Mizzou. Reed
showed the range in this one going 3-5 from three and was one of five
Jayhawks in double-figures.
Missouri could have used some of Reed's efficiency from deep. In order
to compete with KU. Because of the size discrepancy alone the Tigers
required a solid effort from three and they didn't get it in this one.
Mizzou was just 23-65 from the floor overall and an abysmal 3-22 from
behind the arc.
The failure to really keep it close for most of the game kept a lid on
the volume of the Antlers (student section at MU) spoiling senior day
in Columbia for sure.
Was there anything that didn't go right this week for KU?
Well if the fans had their way that Oklahoma State loss just a week ago
wouldn't have happened and this would've been the program's 2000th win
and it would've come against a hated rival. But everything can't be
perfect for KU.
Heading into the postseason the pressure falls squarely on the
shoulders of 6-11 Cole Aldrich and senior leader Sherron Collins. There
have been plenty of nights where KU has walked out of the gym a winner
with marginal performances from their two stars. This is now a whole
different world though and whether or not you succeed in the postseason
depends largely on the performance of your best players. Collins was
critical in that first half 16-0 run and finished with 12 points for
the game. Aldrich scored 10 points, and grabbed 7 rebounds but really
wasn't involved early. They will both have to be better to cut down
some more nets and add to their postseason accolades.
"I still don't think we've had all our players play well at the same
time," Self repeated. "I think your best players have to really step up
and play their best the most important times of the year and that's
Sherron and Cole. They gotta step up. They played fine today but not
anything special or anything like that."
The Jayhawks have a rest and will not play until Thursday in the Big 12
Tournament in Kansas City. Don't expect to see this team cut loose and
celebrate the title they just officially earned.
"Our guys haven't celebrated that's the thing that's cool to me," Self
continued. "Just high fives because I really think that they feel there
are bigger things out there if we're able to stay focused and take care
KU Finishes In Style
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