Kansas City, Mo. Bill Self didn’t plan to pop open a bottle of champagne late Friday night at team headquarters, the Downtown Marriott Hotel.
“Ah, that’s not a milestone,” Self, Kansas University’s basketball coach, said modestly after the Jayhawks’ 79-66 Big 12 tournament semifinal victory over Texas A&M in Sprint Center.
He was referring to claiming his 200th victory (against 42 losses) in his seven-year KU career and becoming the quickest to reach 200 of any coach in Jayhawk history.
“It’s nice to be able to get it,” he said. “We’ve been on a pretty good roll lately, but that’s not a big deal.
“Now, 207 ... that’d be nice, really nice,” Self added with a smile.
Of course reaching win No. 207 this season would mean not only a victory over Kansas State today in the Big 12 tourney finals (5 p.m., Sprint Center), but six victories in the NCAAs and a second national title in three seasons.
There were no T-shirts made to celebration the occasion, also none to commemorate Cole Aldrich topping the 1,000-point mark in scoring and none to recognize KU moving past North Carolina into second place on the all-time win list (2,001 to 2,000).
“Tyshawn’s mom would take them anyway. Isn’t that what he said yesterday?” Self said with a big laugh.
Yup. Tyshawn Taylor (nine points, five assists) said after Thursday’s victory over Texas Tech that his mom, Jeanell, likely would snatch away his KU 2,000 victory T-shirt.
“Coach didn’t say anything about it. That’s actually the first I’ve heard of that,” Taylor said of Self hitting No. 200 at KU. Self won his 400th game overall earlier this season.
“Congratulations to coach. He’s humble and not going to mention something like that to the team.”
Self for the second straight day was in no mood to party at halftime. The Jayhawks (31-2) committed 12 first-half turnovers in falling behind, A&M (23-9), 38-35.
“It was a lighter version of yesterday’s talk,” Taylor said. “He was not happy with us. He said we were playing dumb. I personally ran an out-of-bounds play completely wrong. We played stupid, and he got on us. We deserved it.”
KU didn’t wake up for a while after the break. The Jayhawks, who trailed by a game-high nine points (47-38) three minutes into the second half, hopped into a zone defense (2-3 and triangle) with 10 minutes left with KU down, 55-51.
Xavier Henry (15 points) hit a three and scored 11 points in a 21-2 run that buried KU grad Mark Turgeon’s A&M team.
“It wasn’t Syracuse’s zone, but we got something out of it,” Self said. “We didn’t allow them to pass it where they wanted.”
KU also became inspired when Sherron Collins (26 points, six assists) and Bryan Davis exchanged words after inadvertently bumping into each other a minute after a Henry three gave KU a 63-57 lead at 7:22.
Davis and Markieff Morris were called for technical fouls in a shouting match that never came close to escalating into a fight.
“Sherron was arguing a bit, and I stepped in,” said Morris, who had 10 points, five boards and four assists. “The ref thought I was talking to him. What I was actually doing was pulling Sherron back.
“We don’t want to have the image of bad guys,” Morris added. “But we won’t back down. And I think we’re going to keep playing hard.”
The incident fired up Collins, who had 14 points the second half off 5-of-12 shooting.
“When you make Sherron mad, there’s a problem,” Taylor said. “When guys get chippy, Sherron turns it up. We go as he goes. Today he went.”
“No. 4 puts us on his back when things aren’t going right,” coach Self gushed.
If Collins was the star of the game, Henry was standout No. 1A. He hit for 11 points the second half, all in that 21-2 surge.
“When things aren’t going right, he starts pressing,” Self said. “When he’s pressing, the hole shrinks. We talked to him before the game. We told him to have fun tonight, be a kid, enjoy this.
“He’s not going to be in school long enough to not enjoy this and have fun,” Self added with a smile, referring to the player expected to be a one-and-done.
Henry continued his yearlong stance of praising his teammates for his success.
“My points … it was them finding me. They looked for me all the time, and I tried to find the open spot. It’s a team game, and my teammates always look out for me,” he said.
And for what it’s worth, the team again will receive T-shirts if they win today: Big 12 tournament championship T-shirts.
“I told the guys if we’re here, we might as well win it,” Self said with a smile.