Kansas City, Mo. — We’ll find out how smart a basketball team Kansas State is tonight in the Big 12 tournament finals in Sprint Center.
If the Kansas State players talk sparingly to Kansas University senior guard Sherron Collins and in those instances shower him with compliments, then they’re not only talented, but extremely wise as well.
Smart: “My, Mr. Collins, that is one terrific crossover you have.”
Dumb: “You can’t guard me.”
Smart: “Did I mention I think you should be first-team All-American?”
Dumb: “How much weight have you put on?”
Breathe on Collins the wrong way, and he’ll twist it into a slight, and when he does that he’ll reach down your throat, grab your heart, rip it out, stomp on it and laugh at everyone who had the unmitigated gall to hope it still has a few beats left in it.
During the second half of a 79-66 Kansas victory against a Texas A&M team that held a three-point lead at the half, the game developed a street-fight vibe filled with trash-talk, on-purpose accidental bumps, threatening glares, healthy hatred. In other words, it became Sherron’s playground.
From where did all this animosity stem?
“I think it was when they got chippy, pretty much that was it,” Collins said. “They got chippy first. Nobody was doing anything on our side to egg them on. It was something they started.”
If that’s the case, A&M’s not a very smart team. Then again, if the Aggies hadn’t said anything, Collins would have invented a reason to hear something he didn’t like. He plays best when he convinces himself he has been disrespected.
“We knew it was going to be a little chippy,” Collins said. “That’s what good teams do. That played right into my hands. That happened to me all the time in high school, so I like things like that.”
Asked specifically what started the commotion, Collins didn’t sound too sure.
“I really didn’t see it,” he said. “I think it started with Cole (Aldrich) and (Bryan) Davis. I really don’t know.”
He didn’t have to know. The fight was on, and he wasn’t going to let his side lose. He penetrated with a vengeance, set up Tryel Reed and Brady Morningstar for three-pointers, hit one of his own, and then went to work on making sure Xavier Henry felt included. That worked, too.
Collins changed the tone of the game, led his team on a 21-2 run and had 26 points, six assists and just one turnover to show for it.
Just as everyone in blue — which at that point was pretty much everyone in the arena — was trying to put a finger on just what was dragging the nation’s No. 1 team down an unimpressive one-and-a-half games into the conference tourney, Collins turned on the jets.
“We’re trying to get rid of those gears and stay in one gear,” Collins said. “Today we tried hard. We were just playing dumb. ... We had some defensive breakdowns. Once we got those out of the way, we were fine.”
And once he got the Aggies out of the way, he sent an exclamation point the way of a fan who had been taunting him for two nights. He put his hand to his forehead and pulled it way emphatically.
“She was jaw-jacking at me,” Collins said. “I don’t know if it was one of the player’s mother or just an A&M fan, but she was pretty rude to me, so I saluted her.”
She really should have known better. Collins will take his motivating slights wherever he can find them. Even in the stands.