Saturday night the Jayhawks completed the always difficult three game sweep of their in state rival, this time winning in the Big 12 tournament championship game. Kansas looked extremely poised throughout the game, answered every punch by the Wildcats and ultimately won in comfortable fashion.
A handful of solid performances stood out. There was Marcus Morris' 18 points and 8 rebounds to lead the way, Sherron Collins 12 points and 7 assists and even a foul plagued Cole Aldrich put together 10 points and 8 rebounds. Still it was another player that stole the show in Kansas City. A Kansas native and a player on this team who seems to understand exactly what certain games mean to Kansas fans.
Tyrel Reed is probably the 8th man off the bench for the Jayhawks. The 8th man in a pretty solid 8-man rotation. Reed brings solid spot shooting and decent ball handling to the table, but he's hardly a player expected to change the game. In fact for the most part Coach Self and Kansas look for 12-15 mistake free minutes with perhaps a pair of well timed three's. On Saturday night though, Tyrel provided a lot more. 15 points and a solid defensive effort on the Wildcats Denis Clemente while quietly putting himself in the conversation for player of the game.This performance actually continued a bit of a trend for Tyrel Reed. In a season where the Jayhawks finish 5-0 against their conference rivals, in conference play, Reed more often than not has become a bit of a thorn in the sides of the Tigers and Wildcats at one point or another. Sometimes it takes a Kansan to understand what those games mean to Kansas.
Certainly the record shows that most of the Jayhawk team understands the importance, but with Reed it's been a consistent elevation of his game. An elevation that is likely maddening to Kansas State and Missouri fans. It's acceptable when Sherron Collins or Cole Aldrich beats you. Even Marcus Morris or Xavier Henry going off for 20 points can be stomached, but when a 6'3" Burlington Kansas native(pop. 2790) looking more like a walk than a player hands it to you, I'm sure it digs a little deeper.
On the season Reed averages 4.9 points per game with one assist and one rebound. Hardly the type of player to concern a team. Game one against Missouri in Lawrence and Reed goes for 14 including a perfect 4 of 4 from behind the arc. Later that week and then in the second contest against the Wildcats, Reed took a little bit of a backseat but he'd get one final shot.
Game two against the Missouri Tigers, once again Reed outperforms expectations scoring 11 points and grabbing 3 rebounds against an undersized Tiger squad. Which brings us to game three against the Wildcats and we all know what happened last night. Tyrel's 15 points to go along with solid defense were key in keeping the Wildcats at arms length and the Jayhawks comfortably out in front.
In 3 of the 5 games against the Jayhawks biggest rivals, one of the players on the team who grew up with those rivalries responded in a big way. In fact, outside of a non conference game against Central Arkansas, those three games make up Tyrel Reed's top three performances of the year.
Big players step up in big games, but sometimes a not so big player steps up as well. Tyrel Reed arguably knows and understands these rivalries more than most, and I can't imagine the frustration he's caused a pair of teams this year. Some players are born to play for Kansas. Based on how and when Tyrel Reed steps up to the plate with his biggest performances, I'd say he's one of them.