Senior Night leaves mark on coach

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

15 of 16 Jayhawks score in triumph over Texas Tech

Following KU's 109-51 beatdown of Texas Tech, head coach Bill Self joked that not even the Los Angeles Lakers could have beaten the Jayhawks on senior night.

Bookend blowouts wreck Raiders

Last Wednesday the Texas Tech men's basketball team suffered its worst loss in school history. Three days later, the Raiders responded with one of the biggest wins in school history. Fast forward another 48 hours, and the Jayhawks shellacked Pat Knight's team in the most lopsided Kansas contest in Big 12 history.

Upon further review, there's absolutely nothing Bill Self would have changed about Monday's Senior Night festivities in Allen Fieldhouse.

"It was the classiest night I have ever experienced in college basketball," Self, Kansas University's fifth-year coach, said Tuesday on his Hawk Talk radio show.

"The fans were a huge part of it. Our play was a part of it. The seniors were a part of it. The seniors' families were a part of it. So many things that came together were things that you can't buy. You can't recreate that.

"We've had great senior classes in the past, and we'll continue to have great classes. Last night was the perfect storm," added Self, in his 15th year overall as a head coach.

From the pre-game introduction of seniors Jeremy Case, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson and Rodrick Stewart and their families, to the 109-51 rout of Texas Tech, to the post-game speeches ... it all added up to a night Self won't soon forget.

"We had a lot to play for ... to go undefeated at home," Self said, adding, "as cool as all that was, one thing was cooler than anything. The game started at 8 o'clock with many of the people living in Kansas City, Wichita, places where they are driving to the game. It finished at 10 and at 10:30 there couldn't have been 300 people that left their seats. That doesn't happen at many places, maybe just one."

Indeed, just a handful of fans left the building before the five senior speeches were complete.

"The guys did a nice job expressing what everybody meant to them in limited minutes. (At) past Senior Nights it would have been 2 a.m.," Self joked of the players limiting their comments to three to five minutes.

Allen Fieldhouse - which rocked Monday - was just as loud during Saturday's victory over Kansas State.

"I thought Saturday was the best crowd we've had since I've been here, and we've had some good ones - Georgia Tech, Michigan State," Self said of past victories. "I thought our play and energy level against K-State was great. Even though it was a 14-point game, I felt we controlled the game from the get-go. I know (Michael) Beasley and (Bill) Walker got two fouls early and are huge keys to their team, and I'd not deny that at all. (But) all three of our main big guys had two fouls, too.

"We played great, but in my opinion - and fans may disagree - Monday was a lot better than Saturday."

Perhaps the highlight of the night for Self was listening to his players' speeches. Case spoke of his desire to be a coach.

"He'll be a great coach. He'll be the type of coach you want your son to play for," Self said. "He is so level-headed, not emotional. He is everything that I'm not. Like what he said, 'There will be some things I'll take with me (from what he learned under Self),' and the bad things he'll leave behind."

KU, which is tied with Texas at 12-3 in the Big 12 standings with one game remaining, can win a share of the league crown by beating Texas A&M Saturday. Tip is 3 p.m., at Reed Arena in College Station.

Texas, a 70-66 winner over Nebraska on Tuesday, will close with a home game against Oklahoma State on Sunday.

¢Jackson up for award: KU senior Darnell Jackson is a finalist for the eighth-annual V Foundation Comeback Award. The award will be announced during ESPN's basketball Final Four coverage.

The award is presented to an individual who has accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, be it in health, life or moral dilemma.