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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keegan

Border Warriors prove mettle

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor fights through a pick by Missouri forward Steve Moore as he defends MU guard Phil Pressey during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor fights through a pick by Missouri forward Steve Moore as he defends MU guard Phil Pressey during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 87-86 overtime victory over Missouri on Feb. 25, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU players Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Conner Teahan

KU players Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Conner Teahan talk about the Jayhawks' 87-86 overtime victory over Missouri on Feb. 25, 2012.

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KU vs. Missouri

Box score

Big comeback against the bitter rival ends with the home team winning, and we all know what happens next. The students make like water breaking through a dam and stream onto the court, forming a sea of flailing bodies.

Not here. On game day, those who pay to walk through the door for a two-hours-and-change show don’t make it about themselves in Allen Fieldhouse, not when the athletes are under the same roof. They know the stage belongs to the players and don’t believe in desecrating it with the footsteps of mere mortals, even when the show happens to have been greater than any they had ever witnessed, replete with a plot twist as improbable as it was delightful.

The patrons left the building Saturday sweating and smiling, shaking their heads over an affirmative response to a pair of questions they no doubt couldn’t stop asking themselves:

1. Did I really just witness my Kansas basketball team recover from a 19-point, second-half deficit to defeat the nation’s third-ranked team with Missouri on its chest in what could be the final time the rivals meet in a long, long time?

Yes.

2. Did the coach who has on his roster a band of basketball players who lead more with emotion than intellect, so often don’t take great care of the basketball, shoot well only in streaks, are cursed with a penchant for spacing out, really just clinch a tie for his eighth consecutive Big 12 title? Even with an eight-man rotation that has two former walk-ons and a mid-major transfer still trying to find his way, and, oh, by the way, just one returning starter from a team that lost two lottery picks and a pair of starting perimeter players?

Yes.

How and how?

The answers to both questions can be traced to the same qualities. The team that defeated Missouri, 87-86 in overtime, is packed with bold players who believe in their ability to win every battle. And they believe their general, coach Bill Self, will prepare them better than the other team’s general. What the players might lack in style, they more than compensate for with a loud competitive streak. Competing is what they do best.

They believe nothing they face in games can be any more difficult than what they face daily in practice. The bigger the challenge, the better they play. The next time the coach looks the other way when a player doesn’t try to meet the high standards he sets will be the first. It’s not easy playing basketball at Kansas, but who wants easy? Not these strong-willed fighters.

When the so-hard-to-guard Marcus Denmon answered a Tyshawn Taylor three-pointer with yet another of his own, the Missouri lead stood at 58-39 with 16:24 left.

The stage was set for a monumental comeback, and the players pulled it off with a methodical assault on the deficit. Making his bid for best supporting actor to Taylor and Thomas Robinson — the names on the marquee — Elijah Johnson triggered the comeback by nailing a pair of three-pointers in 65 seconds. Now Missouri’s lead was 13. Robinson’s jumper made it a much more manageable 11-point deficit. But Missouri’s undersized scoring machines kept ringing up points. Even during a stretch in which Conner Teahan lit the crowd with one of his four three-pointers (in four attempts), Kansas nearly was all the way back in the hole it had started to climb out of when a Kim English drive put the Tigers up, 67-51, with 10:51 left. Expending all that energy on a treadmill to nowhere might have broken less competitive spirits. Not the Big 12 champs.

Kevin Young, the junior transfer from Loyola Marymount, drew another eruption from the audience with a powerful, two-handed flush, and this time Missouri couldn’t curb the momentum. Young’s dunk started a 19-4 run that lasted 8:10. During the blitz, Johnson kept making passes into small openings with Todd Reesing accuracy. Teahan stayed hot. Travis Releford turned up the defensive heat. Taylor patiently yet relentlessly attacked the hoop, and Robinson dominated inside. Robinson not only had the blocked shot that extended the rivalry five more riveting minutes, he also scored 11 points in the final 8:58 of regulation.

Spectators who have been coming regularly for decades to the building that next month turns 57 could not remember it ever being louder than it was during the comeback. As the decibels rose, so too did the temperature. More than just the players were sweating, especially in the upper regions. Body heat rises.

Now it was time for Robinson to cede the spotlight to his co-star Taylor, the excitable, exciting senior guard from Hoboken, N.J., hometown of another great performer, the late crooner, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. For the day’s script to remain on the too-corny-for-fiction track, Taylor needed to be the one to carry this band of misfit toys to the finish. After all, it was Taylor who played so brilliantly for all but the final two minutes in Columbia, Mo., when it was the Tigers who stormed from way behind to victory. And then he gave it all away. In that one, he dribbled the ball away for one turnover, charged for another and missed a pair of free throws, all in the final two minutes.

In this one, Taylor scored nine points in the overtime. Until these rivals meet again, Taylor can lay claim to having scored the final points, the final field goal and the final free throws against Missouri. He opened the overtime banging a three-pointer and again gave KU a three-point lead with 2:46 left on a sweet one-hander. Twice in a 20-second span of the last half-minute, Taylor turned a one-point deficit into a one-point lead. First, he cut back-door, and Johnson threaded a beauty to him, setting him up for a two-hand slam. And after Denmon hit a baseline shot with 12 seconds left, Taylor drove and was fouled.

He made both free throws to give KU an 87-86 lead that stood as the final score. On a day Taylor and Johnson combined for 13 assists and one turnover, Taylor and Robinson combined to make 15 of 17 free throws. Maybe now the gas bags who can’t seem to stop obsessing on the unsightly warts of Taylor’s game can instead appreciate its breathtaking beauty while a few grains of sand remain in the hour glass of his compelling KU career.

Nobody personifies this team better than Taylor, so amazingly quick but at times not quick enough to get out of his own way, yet in the end best described in one word: winner.

Comments

Scott Wooten 2 years, 1 month ago

Damn. It feels good to be a jayhawk.

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okiedave 2 years, 1 month ago

What a great win. I do not want to share the Big XII title with MU. I am really concerned about Monday in Stillwater. OSU beat Missouri in Stillwater. Self has only beaten OSU one time in Stillwater. However, I now believe this team can rise to any challenge if it sets its mind on it.

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1977kufan 2 years, 1 month ago

Tom, This is your best journalist writing!!! To savor the article, I have read this 3 times to day and each time I am truly amazed at your choice of words, the mastery of flow from one point or paragraph to the next, the syntax and many other points that I could make. You are exactly right!!! Great effort from all of the players and it's certainly nice to have the number 8 consecutive championship trophy coming shortly into THE FIELDHOUSE!!!

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Steve Brown 2 years, 1 month ago

TK nice story. Posters nice reads, especially aloha.

Yesterday was hectic for us, we couldn 't attend had conflicts so I taped it to watch last evening. I was able to watch the 1st half however was behind real time 45 minutes. Had to leave the house with my version we were down 19 points. Went outside in disgust took the crimson and blue flag down and started backout of the garage. My neighhbor yelled, "did you see it" I said no, I'm taping it and watching it behind real time, so mad I'm taking my flag down. He said, " I can't say anything, but have faith and put your dahm flag back up." His wife came out to get in his car and yelled top of her lungs, "RCJK" I had my signal....didn't ruin it at all, then my bro. called from AFH garage, "did you see it?" No, I'm taping it..got a meeting conflict will watch it tonight. He said, "enjoy it brother, enjoy it." and so we did.

A toast to Angel Morris, Ms. Taylor, all the moms now and in the future that loan us your sons, hoping they become not just 'paid players' but men, and better men. we thank you for your trust in coach and the phog mystic, as we get so much from them, in return they have a chance to fullfill your dreams and expectations. Thank you again for loaning us your sons.

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Janet Olin 2 years, 1 month ago

Great win. Great comeback. Great performances by TT and TRob, especially at the end.All the guys on the court contributed to the total comeback--EJ and CT with clutch treys, Trav with defense, and how about the job Kevin Young did in Whithey's place? wow. 13 assists/1TO for TT/EJ and dbl/dbl for TRob--that's ballin'

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rwhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Good stuff. I was hoping for a lot more on Young today, he played with great energy and did a whole lot more than have a great dunk that started the run. He was great. He was flying around, grabbing loose balls, playing good defense on English, and showing off his best impersonation of Withey! He looked like he was having so much fun and it was fun to watch even when we were losing.

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Mike Kendall 2 years, 1 month ago

Wasn't there another guard (from UCLA ) that went coast-to-coast against Missouri in the Big Dance?

TT---U da man!

Keegan--nice article -- enjoyed it immensely!

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Mike Kendall 2 years, 1 month ago

Wasn't there another guard (from UCLA ) that went coast-to-coast against Missouri in the Big Dance?

TT---U da man!

Keegan--nice article -- enjoyed it immensely!

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utahjayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Awesome article TK and way to sum up TT's contribution to this team.

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kumax 2 years, 1 month ago

Keegan, I had to laugh as I thought about you paying homage to TT- our KU point guard who's been simultaneously breathtaking in his amazing skill at getting to the basket as he is frustrating when he makes bone- headed plays. I wondered if anyone else experienced the same sense of irony while reading this article? Its something akin to reading a few of your past articles where you (as a writer) careen toward some unknown goal- only to leave the reader bewildered, exasperated and wondering what just happened. I'm not a Keegan- basher but have not been unsympathetic when you took heat for lazy writing. This article, on the other hand... is one of the best I've seen coming from a KU Sports writer of late! Unfortunately, I now live in PAC-12 country (Colorado) and no longer get to make the trip up to University Hill (Boulder) to see my Jayhawks play every season. Thanks for bringing some of the game-time passion and heat to this story. Very well done. Please keep bringin' it... same to you Tyshawn!

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ejlumus 2 years, 1 month ago

Tom, this was your best article. You sir also hit two free throws!!!

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machinegun 2 years, 1 month ago

Wow-that was a great article Mr. Keegan! Coach Self and the guys deserve all the credit in the world for winning an eighth consecutive Big 12 Championship! Coach Self was at his best yesterday. He and the staff were great! T-Rob and Tyshawn were great!! All of the guys were great! What a bunch of warriors! They accomplished the impossible because they never quit believing in themselves.

Picture this--as Mikey Dixon was desperately trying to get the refs to call one more of his patented flops and the last second ticked away, I was on my knees with a big blanket wrapped around my head taking what could have been my last breath on earth and thanking the good Lord for one more win against "them bums". I fell face forward, performed virtual CPR on myself and survived to tell the story.

Here's a stick of gum (for "them bums") now chew on that for a while Stormin' Norman.

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Hank Cross 2 years, 1 month ago

About the refs - 1. B8/B12 refs are notorious homers, so it's not surprising the way the calls went down the strech here and in Columbia.

  1. Look at the in game comments on this site at halftime concerning the refs.

  2. When MU took the foot off the gas and started settling for 3s, they were not going to be drawing fouls.

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PVJayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

I looked up some statistics recently and found this for the win percentages for the previous 13 seasons:

KU 93% at home, 70% on the road

mu 83% at home, 33% on the road

The astonishing gap between home and road wins for mu that makes one wonder how that can be. It also suggests that mu should have been blown out by a fired-up KU team at AFH yesterday

It seems this is not a normal mu team and/or they are a particularly bad match up for KU. Their performance Sat. also suggests the depressing thought that they might have a good chance to make it to their first final four this year.

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Ron Franklin 2 years, 1 month ago

Nice read. Good job, Tom.

I can't believe they won that game, these guys are gaaaaaassssssssed.

These last two games will be tougher than expected--glad I'll be there for Senior night.

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Steve Corder 2 years, 1 month ago

Emotional, celeabratory congratulations to a great coach and a patchwork team not too unlike the '88ers. Loved the game and wished I could have been there. BUT, MU was not going to win yesterday unless they were too hot to overcome what I believe to be silent whispers & winks within the conference.

This was the championship game with THE marquee program in the conference with a school that had spent the last 3 years lusting after another conference afiliation. You tell me if the conference wants MU to walk into AFH and win that game then moon everybody as they runoff to the SEC laughing their you-what-off? You got to be drunk or a Pollyanna.

Those critical calls late in the game could have easily gone the other way. The guy standing not more than 8 feet from the two calls, Robinson's 3 point play (watch the TV angle from the baseline) and TT's driving layup in OT, did not make the call, The ref 30 feet or more from the play made the call (watch the replay; that baseline ref stood like Mt. Rushmore). The TV never replayed the floor angle from the baseline on TT's play. Coincidence? Maybe. The same no call on Robinson's block (he creamed the MU guard pretty good) also was another example of a play that easily could have gone to MU. Critical officating at critical end-of-game play gave us what we wanted (and the conference too)....the "conference" is smiling big time today......but the Hawks better take the title out-right this week.

Conspiracy? Like Mel Gibson's movie character, a good conspiracy can't be proved. Gotta love it.

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ck22 2 years, 1 month ago

You got 1 thing wrong, Tom. We didn't defeat a team with Missouri on its chest...instead they have a stupid, gimmicky moniker on their chest that they've completely sold out to the last 10 years. A farce of a nickname that they put on uniforms instead of the bottom 5 state that they represent.

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lurkerhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

I really enjoyed reading this one. Keep this up Tom!

Taylor's drive with 0:12 remaining was the best acceleration I've seen from him! 94 feet in a span of 4 seconds... just wow! If Taylor can sustain this kind of play in March, then I won't be surprised if we play in April!

(all caps)

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jaybate 2 years, 1 month ago

You sound like a damned newsman again, Tom. Its my highest compliment! It was like reading about Da Bums winning the Series by one of the great old sports writers, but contemporary, too. Damn! Its in you. I knew recently after you took that shot at Knight that the living myth of Kansas basketball was doing its thing to you. Lawrence was settled by people from the east. The game was invented by a man from the other side of the lake you grew up on. You are in Basketball Glockkamorah. You keep getting better. Give what you can to the living myth. It always gives back even more. Is this Iowa, Tom? Hell, no, this is Kansas. Its the real living myth, not some movie. And it needs a voice.

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jayhawkinmullen 2 years, 1 month ago

Great article!! Really did enjoy it. This game could not have been scripted any better.

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kusayzone 2 years, 1 month ago

I must concur with other readers comment. Tom K, this is an article that captured the spirit of the contest. Your words speak volumes for what so many of us KU fans feel, and yet the words escape us. Oh what a feeling have you professed for us tonight! Simply said....thank you RCJHKU

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KU79 2 years, 1 month ago

Great column Tom. Enjoyed every word. Did we really win that game? I kept asking myself that last night...

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KU79 2 years, 1 month ago

Great column Tom. Enjoyed every word. Did we really win that game? I kept asking myself that last night...

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KU79 2 years, 1 month ago

Great column Tom. Enjoyed every word. Did we really win that game? I kept asking myself that last night...

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kkoenig 2 years, 1 month ago

This game deserves Keegan's article he wrote after the A&M game: "Kansas University basketball team also managed to diagram a blueprint for how to make an early exit in the NCAA Tournament." Play against a team with a couple of good guards that can shoot the three and a forward with some inside mettle (Wichita State, Murray State), play for 20+ minutes like no one scouted the opposition's defense, and shoot poorly from the charity stripe. There will be no Allen Fieldhouse to provide the comeback energy, just some half-empty arena with no life & KU will be going home early again this year.

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Alohahawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Such a terrible, "down year" for KU:

National and Big 12 Coach of the year ?: Bill Self

National and Big 12 POY ?: TRob - Should also be 1st team All American.

TT second as POY in the Big 12 ?. Deserves recognition on one of the All American teams at season's end.

Big 12 first team ?: TRob and TT

Big 12 first team defense ?: Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson

Currently - most double-doubles nationally (I think) : TRob - Currently is second nationally in rebounds per game.

Most improved player nationally: Jeff Withey - Currently 1st in the Big 12 and 6th nationally in blocks per game.

2012 season - Eighth straight Big 12 champions: Kansas Jayhawks.

Currently ranked 4th (3rd next week ?)

Possible #1 seed in the Big Dance ?

All of the above against one of the most difficult schedules any college team has played this season.

Not bad for a "down year".

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Kye Clark 2 years, 1 month ago

This from a Jason King article on ESPN:

It was only fitting, then, that Taylor ended up with the ball in his hands after Denmon had given the Tigers a 86-85 lead on a baseline jumper with 12 seconds left in overtime. Taylor, who is one of the fastest players in the country with the ball in his hands, zoomed down the court and into the lane, where he was fouled by Pressey.

Watching from the stands, Taylor's mother, Jeanell, covered her eyes and then peeked through her fingers as her son stepped to the line. She breathed a sigh of relief after Taylor swished his first foul shot. And after he made the second one?

"I broke down and cried," Jeanell said. "That's my baby."

Taylor chuckled as Jeanell told the story.

"Can you believe her?" he said. "Drama queen.".

That last line cracked me up!

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jayhawker_97 2 years, 1 month ago

Keegan, keep it up. this is very stylish & yet emotional article. i enjoyed reading every bit of it. and indeed, our team is not the better team of two, but our team "is packed with bold players who believe in their ability to win every battle." - that's what we're better at.

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april28 2 years, 1 month ago

Very nice article. It really highlights what an epic battle it was for these guys to come back. I will readily admit that, at the 10:51 mark, down by 16, I didn't think they could do it. Man am I glad that they had more grit than I did.

Win out, and Self has to be a lock for COY. But, as Keegan points out, this was really about the players. Really, truly, amazing....

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