Kansas University's basketball players practiced badly in front of Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith and other members of the Jayhawks' 1952 national-title team Friday at Allen Fieldhouse.
"When I had a chance to meet with coach Smith yesterday, I said, 'Did you ever have a bad practice the day before a game?' He said, 'Yes,''' KU coach/storyteller Bill Self said Saturday.
"He said, 'A lot of people think if you practice bad, you play better. I don't believe in that.' So he had me pretty worried going into today."
The Jayhawks weren't about to spoil reunion weekend for the '52 champs, and in fact put on one of the best shows in KU history in blistering Nebraska, 92-39, before 16,300 happy fieldhouse patrons.
"I thought our whole team played well today," Self said after a game in which 13 Jayhawks played and 13 scored.
Only Brady Morningstar didn't get in the act, and that's because he was in Denver attending the funeral of a family friend.
"Once the snowball started going downhill, it just didn't stop," Self said.
At game's end, KU had a 53-point victory - the second-largest margin of victory in a conference game in school history, trailing only a 56-point victory over the Huskers in 1958.
Overall, it tied for the 19th-biggest victory margin in KU history and marked the second-worst defeat in NU annals. It also matched the second-biggest blowout in Big 12 history, trailing only Kansas State's 55-point victory over Missouri in 1998.
NU's 39 points marked the lowest point total by a KU foe in a conference game since Oklahoma's 39 points back in 1967. The last time any team had fewer than 39 against KU was Pomona-Pitzer, with 38 in 1987.
And it marked the first time in 23 years the Huskers were held under 40 points.
"Any of y'all got a gun?" NU coach Doc Sadler said in his opening remarks to the media, jokingly implying he wanted to be put out of his misery following a second half in which his Huskers were outscored, 56-17.
"I think the last four games we've been putting teams under and keeping them there," KU freshman Darrell Arthur said after scoring 13 points off 5-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes.
In fact, KU has won four straight games by an average of 28 points per contest.
"After the A&M game (three-point loss on Feb. 3), our focus has been on crushing teams and keep playing hard at the end," Arthur said.
Bechard hit a three with :37 left off a Witherspoon assist. Witherspoon hit an inside shot at :17 off an assist by Jeremy Case, who had nine points in eight minutes.
Witherspoon's bucket came with coach Self calling for the Jayhawks not to attack the basket.
"That's one of those things you have got to turn your back on coach and say, 'We've got to get him a shot up,''' said Russell Robinson, who had eight assists against one turnover in 21 minutes. "We weren't trying to disrespect Nebraska, but Brad probably waited his whole life for that shot."
Witherspoon said he saw Self indicate it was time to run out the clock.
"I thought, 'Man,' but then Jeremy Case was like, 'I'll find you,''' Witherspoon said. "After I made it, everything was a blur after that. The crowd was going crazy."
It made up for his missed layup against Kansas State.
"I was very upset. I got in the locker room and had 15 text messages saying, 'What the heck were you doing?''' Humboldt native Witherspoon said.
Self, who was a former college player at Oklahoma State, understood the players' sentiments and said he'd overlook the Jayhawks going against his wishes - this time.
"I let that one go," he said. "I'd rather not shoot the ball there, but Brad got his first college points, he and Brennan both. I guess that's OK. I never try to encourage anybody to try to score when the game is over on the last possession. On that particular case, they didn't pressure coming up, Jeremy threw it to the open man, and Brad was definitely going to shoot it."
As far as the meat of the game : KU used a 27-6 run to turn a 20-18 lead (with seven minutes left in first half) into a 47-24 advantage 5 1/2 minutes into the second half.
Mario Chalmers had eight of his 10 points and Sherron Collins six of his 12 in that surge. What's more, the Jayhawks outscored NU, 41-13, the final 13 minutes after center Aleks Maric (14 points, three rebounds) left for good after taking a shot from Sasha Kaun in the ribs.
53 KU's victory margin over Nebraska56 KU's school record for victory margin in a conference game1-for-9 Kansas' three-point shooting to start Saturday's game10-for-16 KU's three-point shooting to end Saturday's game31.4, 15.0 NU's field-goal shooting, three-point field-goal shooting percentages25:7 Kansas' assist-to-turnover ratio51-13 KU's advantage in scoring by its bench, compared to NU's13, 13Jayhawks who played, Jayhawks who scored against NU
"We kept putting it to them," Brandon Rush said after his 13-point, eight-rebound outing. "Nothing was going right for them, then their star player got hurt at the end.
"Today was one of those days we played good defense the whole 40 minutes," he added after KU held NU to 3-of-20 three-point shooting. The Huskers also missed eight of 12 free throws and made just 31.4 percent of their shots to KU's 58.3 mark (including 11 of 25 three-point shooting).
"It was great to see people who don't get to play much come in and give us a boost off the bench. Overall, we had that killer mind-set in finishing the game."
It all took place to the delight of the '52 players, who clapped enthusiastically sitting behind KU's bench all game.
"It was really cool," Self said of having them in town.
The Jayhawks (23-4 overall, 10-2 Big 12) will face Kansas State at 8 p.m. Monday in Manhattan. KU has won 23 straight in Manhattan, with an 18-0 all-time mark in Bramlage Coliseum.
NU (15-10, 4-7) travels Wednesday to Baylor.
Memories of '57?
Were you at the 1957 national championship game to watch KU and North Carolina in Kansas City, Mo.? If so, we want to hear your stories.
Also, if you have mementos of any kind from that game, let us know, so we can make it part of our 50th-anniversary special coming next month in the Lawrence Journal-World and on KUSports.com.
If so, call Ryan Greene at (785) 832-6357 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org