Countless times, we could have broken away. After an incredibly slow start, allowing the Baylor Bears to jump out to an early 20-13 lead, the game largely went back-and-forth, ebbing and flowing with the two teams' makes-and-misses. And every time we would try to jump out to a substantial lead, behind the backing of the loud and boisterous Allen Field House crowd, Baylor would hit a shot. Usually a three.
Each and every time that we began to pound a nail in Baylor's coffin, Baylor would rip it out before it had a chance to stick. The Jayhawks would jump out to a five point lead, but a three-pointer and fast break layup later and the game would be tied. We tried dunks, we tried 6 point runs, we tried defensive stops, we tried just about anything we could find to pound a nail in the coffin. But try as we may, nothing seemed to work; nothing we did moved us ahead by any reasonably safe margin.
Nothing, that is, until a blown call blew the game open. The refs, as a whole, were pretty good tonight, but as is expected, they did miss a couple of calls on both sides of the fence tonight. One of them was a horrendous over-the-back call on Darrell Arthur, who was called for the foul despite not making any contact. Worse yet, the call was made by an official 25 feet away from the basket, as opposed to the official standing within arms' length distance, who left his whistle unblown. The crowd booed, a frequent occurrence Saturday night, and Bill Self was outraged, red face and all. There was only 9 minutes left in the game, and the lead was only 5 points. But then, after receiving the ball on the "over-the-back", they missed a shot and, taking the rebound, Sherron Collins took the ball down the court and made a layup. 2 points. Another missed shot by the Bears, another defensive rebound for Collins, and a layup for Brandon Rush on the other end, off an assist by Collins. 4 points.
And while, less than a minute later, the Aaron Bruce hit a three, one of Baylor's 12 made shots from beyond the three point line, the game was over. No matter how many ridiculous three-pointers fell in for the Bears, the Jayhawks weren't going to lose at home. Not on this night.
Here are the rest of my thoughts on the game:
Sherron Collins played absolutely incredible tonight, especially in the second half. In the first half, it was an average performance for SC, a half I have gotten all too used to seeing in his injury-riddled sophomore season. But it was almost as if he became completely healthy at halftime, recapturing all of the quickness and agility that endeared him to Jayhawk fans last season, as a freshman. He was the one, along with the help of a blatantly blown call, that finally gave us a healthy lead, courtesy of his mind-blowing speed. 17 points, 13 of them in the second half, along with 2 boards and 4 dishes. The entire second half, once the Bears switched to the 2-3 zone, he was in the middle of the Bears' defense, creating bucket-after-bucket while in the game.
As good as Sherron Collins played, he wasn't the Player of the Game in my opinion. That would go to Darrell Arthur, who had an even better game than SC. In 34 minutes, probably the most important stat of the night for DA after three straight games of foul trouble, Arthur scored 23 points to lead the team (and a season high) and picked up 10 rebounds, five of them on the offensive side of the court. While SC was the catalyst in the second half, the main beneficiary of his work inside the Bears' zone was Arthur. He did everything he was asked of and more, the only frontcourt player that did not find himself in foul trouble, the opposite of the past couple of games. But most importantly, he hit his mid-range jumpshot all night long, and when that happens are offense is almost impossible to stop. Even if we don't hit any threes...
You read that last sentence right, I promise. For the first time in 270 games, dating all the way back to 2000, the Kansas Jayhawks Men's Basketball team did not make a single shot from beyond the three-point arc. Not a single one. We tried 10 times, 4 of them by Brandon Rush, and not a single shot found its way through the hoop. Even Darrell Arthur had a go at it in the first half, despite his crappy percentage in a small amount of attempts, and missed horribly. However, I view this as a positive development. We will likely make at least one three the rest of the season, in fact I guarantee it, and if we can beat a solid team by 10 points without making a three, while they shoot out of their minds, imagine what would happen if we actually make some. We are going to need to make at least a handful Monday night in Austin, so hopefully the law of averages begins to kick in.
Going back to individuals, Russell Robinson had himself quite a bounce-back after three horrific games. In what might have been his worst three game stretch since his freshman season, he allowed anyone and everyone to waltz right past him against the Powercats, Buffaloes and Tigers, while not picking up much slack on the offensive side. Saturday night, however, he improved on the offensive end, scoring 22 points (including an incredible 14-15 from the line), but his responsibility (Curtis Jerrells) ate him from lunch consistently. In fact, not a single guard played well on defense, although the performance still might have been an improvement over the most recent example of guard "defense". We played great on offense tonight, sure, but that was the only reason we won the game. If we are to beat a better opponent in Texas, on the road, Monday night we have to keep up the offensive intensity, while substantially picking up the slack on the defensive side of the basketball.
Moving on to the Bears, I have never seen an entire team launch up so many shots from more than 25 feet. And make them. They shot 29 threes, an incredible amount, jacking up any shot from wherever they felt like it. The biggest culprit of this was LaceDarius Dunn, who fired up 10 shots, the same as the entire Kansas Jayhawk team. Of course, while we made zero of our 10 attempts, LaceDarius made 5 of his attempts, including one that turned out to be a 4-point play. LaceDarius made one of his threes from the foot of the freakin' Jayhawk, for goodness sakes. Sometimes, if you throw enough shots up there, especially by guards as talented as the Bears', they just drop. And the main reason why they scored 90 points is 12 three-pointers made, not our porous defense of late. Our perimeter defense wasn't great, in an effort to not allow them to drive on us we gave up some room on the three-point line. But it certainly was a better defensive performance than the one in Manhattan, and probably better than both the game in Boulder and in AFH. However, while it was halfway decent last night, it has to actually be good, like it was t he first 20 games of the year, if we beat the Longhorns in Austin tomorrow night.
Wow. Curtis Jerrells is a monster. That is all I have to say. The Bears are going to be really good for a while if they keep on pulling in kids like LaceDarius Dunn, and Curtis Jerrells and Kevin Rogers.
I'm calling it right now, the Baylor Bears will beat us next year down in Waco. With everyone we lose, and the very few that will be leaving Waco following this season, they will have (possibly) more talent than us. We lose, I'm calling it right now.
That is all on the game right now, a little more on the game later on tonight, along with the Big 12 Power Rankings, and maybe a little bit previewing the Longhorns tomorrow.
Absolutely huge game coming up tomorrow night, I am pretty scared of the Longhorns and am almost expecting a loss down in Austin.