It’s as if Tyshawn Taylor woke up a few mornings ago and his identity had changed, even if his body had stayed the same. He became Sherron Collins, plus a few inches and minus a few dozen pounds.
In the snap of a finger, the kid whose confidence had been shaken by the venomous bite of cyberspace, turned into a relentless scoring machine. He imposed his will on the game to erase a 12-point, second-half deficit to Iowa State on Saturday, then topped himself, emphatically erased a short-lived Baylor lead late in the first half on a very big Monday, sending his team on the way to a 92-74 rout in Allen Fieldhouse, where the Bears remain winless.
The first loud sign that Taylor would have the sort of night Collins had in leading Kansas to a 100-90 victory two years ago came in the first half when Thomas Robinson had the ball in his hands, facing Taylor, who was at the free-throw line.
Palms up, arms stretched, Taylor pinned his shoulders back to let Robinson know he wanted the ball. Robinson hesitated, and Taylor widened his eyes, made the same gesture and all but stomped the ground, non-verbally telling his teammate he wanted the ball and he wanted it now! This time Robinson gave it to him, and Taylor showed why he so badly wanted the ball. He knew nobody could stop him from getting to the rim.
Nobody stopped him all night because Taylor’s quicker than Collins ever was. He’s Cool Papa Bell quick, as in gets out of bed to turn off the light switch on the other side of the room and is back under the covers before it’s dark.
Kansas coach Bill Self thought the world of the way Collins attacked, but he never invoked Allen Iverson’s name in making a quickness comparison. He did recently with Taylor.
Taylor doesn’t always exhibit Collins’ court savvy. Then again, Collins didn’t bat a thousand there, either. Both guys win so much more than they lose.
For the second game in a row, Taylor scored a career-high 28 points. On this night, Thomas Robinson (27 points, 14 rebounds, a dunk you’ll see on the big board for decades) improved his strong candidacy for player-of-the-year honors and received another endorsement from Dick Vitale, Jeff Withey did a pretty fair Cole Aldrich impersonation, and Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson were models of efficiency.
But it was Taylor who left the Bears inhaling exhaust fumes when he went turbo. In the final 3:49 of the first half, Kansas outscored Baylor, 13-0, to take a 39-29 lead. Taylor scored 11 of the points and assisted Releford on the other bucket.
When he dashed into the lane to put up shots against long-armed guys a half-foot and more taller, he folded up like an accordion, or tossed it in with his left hand or went up and under. Whatever it took, his instincts enabled him to pull the right club out of the bag time after time. He made 10 of 14 field goals and four of six three-pointers. His six assists came in a variety of ways, most memorably on a lob to Robinson, who reached his right arm all the way back and threw one down that blew away the crowd. On another instance, he shifted paces, and when he reached the lane calmly tossed up a lob for a Withey dunk. Taylor also set up a cutting Johnson with a beauty of a bounce pass off the dribble.
Baylor brought a 17-0 record, a No. 3 national ranking and two McDonald’s All-Americans into the building. If one of the teams has two collegiate All-Americans, it won’t be Baylor.
“We had the best big man, in my opinion, in the country today,” KU coach Bill Self said. “And we may have had the best point guard in the country today. I thought those guys were just fabulous.”
A loud pack of 16,300 lucky people didn’t need words to express those same sentiments over and over for a two-hour demonstration of why the players in KU’s starting five have improved so vastly that it doesn’t pay to spend too much time talking about depth problems.