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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Keegan

Keegan: Big men for KU exposed

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— It looked like, almost sounded like, and felt like another game in Allen Fieldhouse. Loud crowd, the road team in helpless retreat, the home team piling on the points in a big-time blowout.

Now the Kansas University basketball team that had been abusing Big 12 Conference foes all the way to a 10-game winning streak knows how it feels to be on the other end.

Rotten. That's how the Jayhawks have been making visitors feel, and that's how they felt on their way back home from the Erwin Center.

The most disturbing aspect wasn't the final scoreboard reading of Texas 80, Kansas 55. It wasn't even that the Longhorns nailed 10 of 20 three-point shots. And it wasn't that Brandon Rush was held to a season-low three points.

All those developments could be attributed to a really bad night for the Jayhawks and a really good one for the more experienced Longhorns.

How badly they were abused down low during the Saturday night massacre was the scariest development for the Jayhawks.

Texas sophomore LaMarcus Aldridge, projected as anywhere from the first to the third pick in the NBA Draft, is listed at 6-foot-10. He looked and played a lot taller than that on his way to 18 points and eight rebounds.

Aldridge keeps his long arms high when the ball is in his hands, too high for KU's gifted shot-blockers to reach. He made nine of 10 field-goal attempts, and KU's only blocked shot of the night was by Rush.

Not many skilled, athletic, tall players stay in college long enough to dominate, so it's not a problem KU will face often. Yet, each round the Jayhawks advance in the NCAA Tournament, the chances increase of facing a big talent like Duke's Shelden Williams, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, UConn's Josh Boone, Pitt's Aaron Gray or Michigan State's Paul Davis.

C.J. Giles has the quickness and length to bother good inside players shorter than he is, such as California's Leon Powe, but does he have the power to neutralize talented players his size?

Giles and Julian Wright (18 points) were KU's most effective big men, and they were completely ineffective in keeping the Texas big men off the offensive glass.

Wright was outrebounded by Texas power forward Brad Buckman, 9-0, and Aldridge outboarded KU's starting center, Sasha Kaun, 9-2. P.J. Tucker doubled Rush, 8-4. Overall, Texas won the battle of the boards, 36-19.

To the delight of a packed house, UT ended any debate as to the best team in the Big 12.

"That was as good an atmosphere as there's been since I've been here at Texas," said UT coach Rick Barnes, whose long day began with an appearance on ESPN's GameDay. "A lot went on around here today."

And none of it had anything to do with football.

The bad promotional gimmicks during timeouts showed Texas still has a way to go in putting on a basketball game, but in playing it, the Longhorns exposed Kansas as the team in need of growth.

"I think our team's done well, but to play with the teams that have a chance to win it all, especially at their place, we have to take another big step," KU coach Bill Self said.

Until that happens, the threat of another All-American-caliber big man stepping all over them looms as an unsettling threat.

Comments

Gary McCullough 13 years, 11 months ago

"To the delight of a packed house, UT ended any debate as to the best team in the Big 12." There were a lot of blue shirts in the crowd Saturday night. I was up in the nosebleed section with a lot of Jayhawkers. And looking down from the upper deck, I could see a lot of blue in the lower seats. It wasn't just the bad promotional gimmicks that revealed how far UT has to go, it's the fact that if the Jayhawk faithful hadn't shown up there wouldn't have been a sell out. KU has been selling out Allen Fieldhouse since Danny Manning was a freshman. Kansas knows basketball, Texas knows football. The world will right itself soon. The Jayhawks will grow up and dominate the Big XII soon enough.

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