Kansas took down Illinois on Sunday, March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Okla. to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 73-59 victory over Illinois on March 20, 2011.
Tulsa, Okla. — There were no funeral services held for Bill Self and his Kansas University basketball players on Sunday night in BOK Center.
The 2010-11 Jayhawks are still breathing today, marching on to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 after a convincing 73-59 victory over Illinois and coach Bruce Weber, the man who held a mock burial service for Self after Self left U of I for KU in 2003.
“We’re all alive and well and glad coach Self is our coach,” KU senior guard Tyrel Reed said in a festive locker room.
The top-seeded Jayhawks (34-2) wanted to play well for several reasons Sunday, none bigger than taking care of their beloved coach.
“When we broke the huddle at halfcourt before the game, Marcus said, ‘We want to do this for coach. We have to win this game for coach,’’’ said KU junior guard Tyshawn Taylor. “He said we couldn’t let coach down.”
Marcus backed up his pregame words by scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds on a night his brother, Markieff, hit the No. 9-seeded Illini (20-14) for 24 points and 12 boards.
“That’s our guy,” Marcus Morris said of Self. “Coach didn’t say anything about it, but I felt this game meant a lot to him. I told the guys, ‘Let’s do it for coach.’’’
“We definitely did that for coach,” noted Markieff, who had eight points in a 10-0 run that stretched a 56-51 lead with 6:33 left to an insurmountable 66-51 at 2:31.
The players were unanimous in their feelings about the matter.
“Coach always has our back in everything. We had to have his back tonight,” noted senior Brady Morningstar, who contributed five points with six assists against just one turnover.
Self, who downplayed his personal feelings about playing his former school before the game, admitted walking away from his postgame media interview session that this was a red-letter day in his career.
“Yes, that was big for me,” Self acknowledged. “It’s one of those games when the bracket comes out you say, ‘Geez,’ because I know it’d bring some talk back and forth. But eight years is a long time. It wasn’t like it’s been two or three years.
“It’s big for me personally in coming back home to Tulsa (where he coached at Oral Roberts and Tulsa) and playing the school I used to coach at where it was controversial when I left. This was big.”
Of course, by winning for Self, the Jayhawks did themselves and KU’s legion of fans a favor. The season continues Friday in San Antonio, where the Jayhawks will meet No. 12 seed Richmond at 6:27 p.m. in the Alamodome. The game will be shown on TBS. The winner will play either No. 11-seed VCU or No. 10-Florida State in the Elite Eight in a region full of upsets.
“We had a little celebration in here,” Marcus Morris said of the locker room. “We finally got over the hump after losing to Northern Iowa (in second game) last year. Now it’s time to see if we can get two wins in our next weekend tournament.”
Self again was brutally honest when asked if he felt “relieved” the Jayhawks advanced after losing as a top seed so early last season.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” Self said. “You say all the time ‘attack mode’ and smile and have fun, but at the end of the day it was a big win for us. They’ve been reminded a long time of what happened last year.”
As far as the specifics of actually how KU advanced, the Jayhawks not only had the back-breaking 10-0 run late, but a 14-1 surge in the first half (Tyshawn Taylor had five points and Markieff Morris four) that turned a 5-4 deficit into an 18-6 lead.
“The twins were awesome,” said Self, who felt confident at halftime despite the fact the Illini lagged by just four, 33-29.
“I told our guys it was the same score as the Boston game,” he added of a 72-53 first-round victory. “Even though they cut the lead from 12 to four, I still felt we had control of the game because it really hurt us when Tyshawn got his second foul (with KU up, 20-13 with 10:04 left in first half; Taylor sat out the rest of the half).
“I thought Elijah did a great job on Demetri in his absence,” he added of guard Demetri McCamey, who had just six points off 2-of-9 shooting, including one of five from three.
“Then in the second half we kind of got it going and played through these two guys,” he added of the twins, who erupted for a combined 26 points the final half.
Illinois’ Mike Davis had 17 points, D.J. Richardson 15 and Mike Tisdale 13, but holding McCamey down was pivotal.
“Coach said if we cut the head off the rest of the team would follow. That’s what we did,” Taylor said. “I’m really excited about next week. Coach told us to be happy, have fun, but not to be content. Just know it’s not over yet.”