“We aren’t gonna take nothing from nobody,” Collins said. “There’s going to be more games like this. Teams are going to come out and be overaggressive. We’re going to stand as one. We’re going to stand together.” -- Sherron Collins - KC Star
See triple negatived-sentence, the one that leads off that season-defining quote and is in the title? yeah, that one. Well, that is the definition of Kansas basketball. There are some things that other conferences, like the Big East, have that we don't have. We aren't physically tested every night. We don't have like five legitimate Final Four contenders. But, we are Kansas. And that means we get everyone's best shot.
Just think about it. No one else in any conference, right now, has every team play them like it's their biggest game of the year in conference play. Well, that's not true. Memphis probably does, in the C-USA, and probably Gonzaga (although, with St. Mary's, maybe not) and Butler. And, Texas and Oklahoma's utter fascination with each other may cause them to care more about that game. But, that isn't the point. What is the point, is that everytime we go out there, we have to play to win.
Even in a rebuilding year, when we clearly aren't the League's top dog, and might not even be the North's best team (although any argument for the Tigers probably flew out the window after last night's shittastic performance...yikes), everyone just wants to beat Kansas. In some ways, this year they try even harder, because it seems so much more feasible to attain.
We don't have to play well for 40 minutes, always. Last night, we clearly didn't. We got outhustled, out played, outcoached in the first half. But, we were clearly the better team for large stretches in the second half, and that was enough to get us the W. It won't always be pretty. It won't always be our best performance. The other teams, more often than not, will come out hyped and, as Sherron puts it, "overaggressive". It's hard to get up for every game and compete with "overaggressiveness". It really is. But, that's what you sign up for if you come to Kansas.
And, that's what we did last night. We didn't show up and really compete in the first half; but we did in the second, and that was enough.
We'll get to the rest of the quote, after the player-by-players of course, after the jump...
- OK, game MVP. Despite one of the stupidest plays you'll see, Tyrel Reed still brings home the honors. Tyrel probably played his best defensive game yet, and hit two straight clutch threes to move us ahead. Seriously, those were two of the biggest buckets of the season. On back-to-back possessions, he drilled two straight threes. And, on the second one, he got up in the grill of Cookie Miller, the punk. That did a lot for our confidence, I think, and was awesome to see. As Sherron says, we have to go back and match their intensity. Tyrel yelling in some punk's face after hitting a back-stabbing three is what we're talking about. Nothing stupid. Nobody wants no T's or nothing. But, stand up, stick up for your team and show who is boss.
- That, that right there, that was the best 14 minutes we've seen from the Morris twins all year long. Honest. They've had flashes before, sure, and sometimes even for multiple minutes at a time. But Wednesday night, where they both played seven minutes, was their best performance. Seriously, look at their combined line: 10 points 2-4 FG (6-8 FTs), 6 Reb, 1 Steal, 1 Block, 2 TOs, 2 Fouls. It gets even better when you look at Markieff specifically; he had the steal, he had the block, he didn't account for any of the turnovers and he had 5 of the rebounds. There was that one stretch, when we really need a bucket, and he got an offensive board on the floor. Then, the very next time down, he got like two or three right then, and got fouled and hit a free throw. They both played excellent. In a game where Cole struggled to use his heigh effectively against the much smaller Huskers, the Morris twins were aggressive, particularly Markieff, and fully acknowledged they were bigger and taller and, usually, better athletes. So go up, jump high and grab the freakin' ball. I'm telling everyone; these guys are going to come up huge in a big game from here on out. I hope it's in the NCAA Tournament, but I'll take it anywhere. They are both developing, they are both getting better.
- I've decided that Sherron Collins is the definition of bipolar. Well, no, not bipolar. Just jam-packed-full of ups-and-downs. Seriously, in one forty-minute game, he seems to be having a tremendous game like five times, and can't hold on to the ball or make a shot six times. It's crazy. Wednesday night was your typical Sherron game, with some really good (that one five-minute stretch in the first half where he was, literally, the only Jayhawk who could get the ball in the hole) and some really bad (3 turnovers and lots of foul trouble). He was more good than bad, overall, but there were stretches when, honestly, I didn't want him out on the court. Now, in hindsight, that wasn't smart of me, but he would resort, every so often, to those old, nasty habits where he tried to win the game all by himself. God, do I love him though. Without Sherron, I honestly have no idea where we would be this year. Seriously. It'd be an interesting topic to do a post on, alone, but seriously. What would our record be without Sherron? .500?
- Tyshawn Taylor, yikes. Not the best performance from TyTay: 6 turnovers, only 6 points. His pass before halftime was an outstanding play, but that was really the only standout highlight of the entire game. I understand it was hostile, and I understand he's a freshman, and I understand that Nebraska might be the best team in the entire freakin' country at forcing turnovers. I realize all of that. And, for that, I'm willing to give TyTay this one. But, we can't have these types of performances from him against better competition (I love the Huskers, but they aren't as good as, say, the Sooners) and still win. I know it's tough to depend so much on a freshman, but that's life with the 08-09 Jayhawks. Especially since we use TyTay to give Sherron a break, letting him bring the ball up the floor a bunch. I love the idea, and think we should keep on doing it, but not if Tyshawn can't hold on to the ball.
- Brady Morningstar. Why does it always take this long to get to him? What's interesting, is he didn't even have his best game. He played great D for the most part, as usual, but he seemed to have more lapses than usual. Of course, that means he had like 3 instead of the usual 0, but still. He did have a really awesome and key offensive performance, though, so he still comes out well in the positive. For his size, I'd say he's the best rebounder on the team. He soars up and grabs the ball, like you're taught, which is nice to see. And he didn't foul, which is incredibly impressive given all of the tough assignments he got. And, best of all, Velander was 1-5 from three. Thank you, Brady.
- Cole, Cole, Cole. Cole Aldrich. Youch. That was, without a doubt, the worst half of Cole's career. It makes a lot of sense, too, given the Huskers' comlete lack of height. While lack of height usually would lead one to believe that taller players will be more successful (ask the KC Star), when there is that much of a differential, it hurts the really tall guy. He can't bang up against anybody, and just feels really awkward going up against others so much shorter. Just an absolutely terrible first half, seriously. However, he had a pretty good second half, when he just went out there and played basketball, so that was good to see. Monday night, now there's a game where he should be big. The Baylors' strength is the guards, but they do have plenty of size down low, so Cole can bang. That is when he could set career highs.
- Not a bad performance by Mario Little, but it might have been his worst since conference play started. No, seriously. His shot wasn't as automatic as it has seemed to be these past two games, and he wasn't that effective offensively. Still, he hit a couple of big shots, and came up big defensively against the smaller Corn. Pulled down 7 rebounds, which was nice, and definitely still contributed, just not in his usual double-digit scoring way.
- Finally, we get to Travis Releford. Releford didn't really play in the second half at all, when we got the foul and the freak-out situations under control, but he played really well for a six-minute stretch in the first half. We didn't have anyone who was playing that well, and he came in and played some really solid minutes for us. Nothing special, nothing to write home about or anything, but he stole some minutes for us when we really needed it. Those are the types of contributions that really good teams have; the type of minutes Rodrick Stewart gave us last year. Next year, maybe, Travis can break into the rotation, but for this year, that is Travis' role; steal minutes when it is necessary. It may seem frivolous, but it can be the difference between winning and losing; which very well might have been the case Wednesday night.
Like I said, certainly not our best performance. But, we played well enough to win, which is all that matters in the end. We are still tied with Boomer Sooner for the conference lead, and a win on Saturday would get us our coveted 6-0 conference start. Assuming no shitting of the bed occurs against Colorado, we have a big-time matchup coming up in Waco on Big Monday. We can win that game. I promise. But, even if we lose, we certainly aren't out of the race yet.
And that's because of games like Wednesday night. Losses in those types of games are what kills teams, because then you are almost in a must-win mode in games that are more 50/50. That was why last night was so huge. For a young team to pull it out, that was very impressive.
I just hope we can carry that momentum onward.