LAWRENCE — You just try ending Kansas' amazing home-court winning streak. Go on, Sherron Collins dares you.
As Cornell found out a couple of weeks ago, and as Baylor discovered Wednesday night, the Kansas senior guard isn't going to let this streak end on his watch. No way, no how.
Collins again put the Jayhawks on his sturdy back, scoring 13 of his 28 points in the final eight minutes in an 81-75 win that had the Kansas faithful squirming before turning into the its 53rd consecutive win at Allen Fieldhouse, the longest home win streak in the country.
Baylor proved to be every bit the test its 14-2 record indicated it would be. The Bears became the first team to shoot better than 50 percent against KU since Louisiana-Monroe did so 91 games ago.
Baylor did the unthinkable, too, in scoring 10 straight points after Kansas had taken a comfortable 65-55 lead with six minutes to play. Usually, they're getting the soap ready in the showers when KU leads by that much with that little time remaining.
But the Bears had one more rally left in them. It was up to the Jayhawks to find a way to pull this one out.
And Collins did. It might seem unfair to put such a burden on one player, but this is a guy who relishes his role. It's why he returned for his senior season. It's what he thrives on.
Collins and sophomore forward Marcus Morris, one of the most improved players in the country, scored 12 of Kansas' final 14 points and combined for 50 on a night when everyone else was struggling to make baskets.
Collins and Morris made 17 of 27 shots; the rest of the Jayhawks were 10 of 35. Collins began the night looking for teammates. His first-half wrap-around dishes to Cole Aldrich and Morris resulted in dunks.
Ultimately, though, Kansas needed Collins to score. And he always does what the Jayhawks need him to do.
His season-high 33 points against Cornell helped bail KU out of a tight game it eventually won 71-66. Collins played 35 minutes in that one and 38 against Baylor and you can look for him to log those kind of minutes the rest of the way, such is his value to the Jayhawks.
"Tight games are something I thrive on,'' Collins said. "I don't make too many mistakes at the end of games.''
Not to many early in games, or in the middle of them, either.
"We have a lot of confidence in Sherron,'' Marcus Morris said. "He's our leader, our motivator. When he can step up and make big shots like he did tonight, you've got to trust him. That's a sign of a great leader.''
Collins trusts his teammates, too. It's a lot different from last season, when the Jayhawks could ill afford for him or Cole Aldrich to have an off night.
"That's when we had a chance to lose,'' Collins said.
KU has a much deeper and more talented team now, even if the parts don't always work together.
Aldrich, like Collins a preseason All-American, hasn't cut loose yet. He had 10 points and four rebounds against Baylor and hasn't played like the dominant player he was a season ago.
Prize freshman Xavier Henry has hit the skids after playing so well early. In his past five games, Henry has made 15 of 52 shots, a shade under 35 percent. He did have seven steals against Baylor, but his shooting is becoming a concern.
The two constants for Kansas right now are Collins and Morris, who has had 19, 20 and 22 points in his past three games after scoring just six combined against Cornell and Tennessee. Morris is 22 of 29 from the floor during his hot streak.
Baylor pushed Kansas because it was able to do a couple of things nobody does against the Jayhawks. First, the field-goal percentage. The Bears not only cracked 50 percent but made 10 of 21 three-pointers, many of them with hands in their faces.
LaceDarius Dunn continued to soak up the sun on Kansas soil, scoring 27 points and hitting a few acrobatic shots. In the three games he's played in Kansas (two against the Jayhawks and one in Manhattan against K-State), Dunn is averaging just less than 28 points, is 26 of 42 from the field and has made 19 of his 30 three-point attempts.
"LaceDarius is probably about as good an offensive player as there is in the country, as far as just being able to score,'' KU coach Bill Self said. "He made some hard shots.''
So did Collins. Or, as Self refers to him, "the best guard in America.''
"At the end of a game, especially a close game, I want the ball in my hands,'' Collins said. "If I have to shoot or score, that's OK. I just want to make a play.''
He made a lot of them Wednesday night. When the Jayhawks needed him most, Collins was there, like he always is.
"I wasn't thinking about the home-court winning streak, not when I'm on the court,'' Collins said. "It ain't in my mind. I never thought we were going to lose at any point in this game.''
I believe him. Such a thought might have entered the minds of the 16,000-plus inside the old barn. Collins? No way.