LAWRENCE | Sherron Collins gathered the Kansas starters around him with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left, the game tied and KU reeling from a 10-0 Baylor run. His message? It had to have been something like “I’ll take care of this.”
At the first sign that he had done his job, after he had swished a three to give the Jayhawks a 5-point lead and drawn a foul while grabbing a defensive rebound, Collins flexed his arms around the ball and yelled. Walking down the court to shoot free throws, he motioned to the students on the far end to make some noise. They obliged, and for another night, Allen Fieldhouse was Sherron’s World.
Collins scored 21 of his game-high 28 points in the second half as the Jayhawks finally put down Baylor 81-75 on Wednesday night, which was quite an accomplishment considering the Bears’ temperament.
From the start, they were not interested in the tradition of this program and this place. They made that very clear when they walked out on KU’s pregame video that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck and highlights the Jayhawks’ rich history, from Naismith to Allen to Self. Team after team has walked into the old barn during the Jayhawks’ 53-game home court winning streak – the longest in the country – and watched that video with eyes wide and mouths open.
Cornell didn’t, and that family of Bears played the Jayhawks tough all night before eventually succumbing 71-66. This family of Bears, who migrated up from Waco, Texas, didn’t even bother staying in the building. Baylor coach Scott Drew did not want his team to feel the aura of Allen in the least. Just because you aren’t watching doesn’t mean you can’t hear the music and the booming voice of Larry Brown saying, “There is no better place to coach, there is no better place to go to school, there is no better place to play.”
When the Bears returned to the arena, the KU fans showered them with boos. But remember: Baylor wasn’t here to get wrapped up in the surroundings. The Bears were here to earn respect nationally and take a big step toward contending for the Big 12 title with a talented and athletic team led by transfer big man Ekpe Udoh.
Baylor took it to No. 3 Kansas from the opening tip. Sharpshooter LaceDarius Dunn appeared the least fazed by the Phog, nailing 4 of 5 3-pointers in the first half. The only way to stop Dunn was from keeping him to get off one of his patented quick-fire threes, and luckily for the Jayhawks, Brady Morningstar was up to the challenge. Morningstar, who started in place of Tyshawn Taylor and lived in Dunn’s shorts, got his hands on three Dunn shot attempts before Dunn could even bring the ball up.
Morningstar got some help from Xavier Henry, who came up with five steals in the first half and 7 for the game. Henry, who had another tough shooting night, going 3 of 13 from the field for 12 points, found another way to contribute for the Jayhawks.
Still, despite standout effort from Morningstar and Henry that led KU to forcing 14 turnovers in the first half, Baylor made 10 of 19 shots (53 percent) and tied KU 30-30 at halftime.
In the second half, as Kansas made what appeared to be its run to victory, taking a 65-55 lead, Taylor was on the floor for nearly all of KU’s best spurt. Certainly, it appeared he was in Self’s doghouse during the first half, as Morningstar, freshman Elijah Johnson and redshirt freshman C.J. Henry all played in front of him in the rotation. In recent weeks, Taylor has said that he doesn’t understand his role at times, and he has played like it most of the time. Against Texas Tech on Saturday, Taylor sat most of the second half.
Yet, in a close one on Wednesday, there was Taylor out there for the teeth of the game. He had 5 assists and 0 turnovers in 15 minutes.
Kansas won this game with Collins doing the usual, this time overcoming a slow shooting start (he began 3-of-9 from the field). The Jayhawks also got another great performance from the surging Marcus Morris, who had 22 points and 8 rebounds, including two offensive boards on the same possession with 1:49 left. Morris was fouled on the second one and went to the line and made two free throws.
The Bears lost because they didn’t value the basketball, wasting a phenomenal shooting performance (25 of 48 for a 52-percent clip) with 20 turnovers. Baylor became the first team since the season-opener against Louisiana-Monroe in 2007-08 to shoot better than 50 percent against KU.