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Monday, February 26, 2018

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Jayhawks sidestep several obstacles to 14th straight Big 12 title

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates for a dunk against the Texas defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates for a dunk against the Texas defense during the first half on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Shaka Smart’s responsibilities as coach of the University of Texas basketball team include making his way to the scorers’ table to do a postgame interview with the Longhorns’ radio crew, win or lose.

It’s one of his easier duties as coach, but this night came with a twist that made it a little tougher than normal after his team lost to Kansas, 80-70, on Monday night, Senior Night, the last night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“You see all the trophies lined up next to each other,” Smart said. “It was almost cruel and unusual punishment.”

The 14 trophies represent the longest conference winning streak in the history of college basketball. The aptly named Smart seldom is at a loss to explain anything, but that number almost tied his tongue.

“It’s really unique because this league is so good,” Smart said. “You look around the other big-time leagues and you just don’t see that. Obviously, they have a a great home-court advantage, but it’s more than that.”

He listed some other qualities, but the more factors he listed, the more he seemed at a loss to explain how it all adds up to 14 in a row.

“They have a phenomenal coach and coaching staff, really good talent, even this year," Smart said. "The guys know who they are and what they need to do for the team and they seem to have a single-minded purpose. Even with all that, you have to do a lot more than that to win 14 in a row.”

Think of all the obstacles that stood in the way of Kansas breaking a tie with UCLA, which won 13 conference titles in a row.

Oklahoma created a November/December buzz thanks to freshman point guard Trae Young’s crazy vision and shooting range.

Texas Tech’s unheralded, high-flying freshman duo of Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith led the Red Raiders to a 12-point victory in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 2 and went on to show that game was no fluke until fading when senior star guard Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury.

Always tough West Virginia took a turn in the national spotlight by defeating Virginia, which has lost just twice this season.

McDonald’s All-American Billy Preston, a potential starter, never played a minute, driven out of college basketball by a Dodge Charger, the money with which it was purchased never quite explained well enough for him to earn eligibility, which led him to end his wait and head overseas to play professionally.

Signs that this could be the year that the streak ended started to pop up during recruiting season. Most recruiting analysts predicted Kansas would land center DeAndre Ayton and point guard Collin Sexton, but at the last minute, Ayton headed to Arizona, Sexton to Alabama.

That left Devonte’ Graham as the lone point guard on the roster; Udoka Azubuike, with all of 11 games of college basketball experience, as the only center.

A lack of depth, it seemed, would prevent Kansas from title No. 14.

Wrong.

“It takes five guys,” Smart said. “They definitely don’t have a lot of depth, but they’ve got a really good five out there at any given time and they obviously have (Marcus) Garrett and (Mitch) Lightfoot to come off the bench, and (Silvio) De Sousa a little bit. They didn’t have margin for error all year long and they’ve been fortunate, not losing anybody (to injury). The guys know their system, know their roles.”

Kansas coach Bill Self found a solution to the lack of depth at point guard. He played Graham 40 minutes night in and night out.

Azubuike steadily improved throughout the season to become the player he was Monday night. He dominated a Texas team playing without shot-blocking monster Mo Bamba, one of the nation's top big men. Azubuike dropped 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots on the Longhorns.

"He's a tough matchup because if you double him, they really make you pay," Smart said of Azubuike.

Kansas made 7 of 16 3-pointers and with the emergence of Azubuike give opponents a no-win, pick-your-poison choice on how to defend the Jayhawks, the greatest defenders of conference titles in the history of college basketball.





More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas


By the Numbers: Kansas 80, Texas 70.

By the Numbers: Kansas 80, Texas 70.

Comments

Tony Bandle 8 months, 4 weeks ago

"...several obstacles..."??? Tom, your grasp of the understatement is dynamic!!!

Bryce Landon 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Kansas ought to have won this game by more than 10, but credit to Shaka Smart for getting his Texas guys to play as hard and well as they did despite being as short-handed as they were.

Mallory Briggans 8 months, 3 weeks ago

And now it time for another episode if Lon and Trae

Coach Kruger enters the players dorm:

Kruger: anybody seen Trae ?

The players response : No coach ...not since we played on Saturday

Coach Kruger :hmmmmm......maybe i shouldn't have given the keys to the car.

Trae enters the room: man I'm tired!

Coach Kruger: Where you been Trae ?....I been worried sick about ya.

Trae: well coach i drove up to Lawrence.....and on the way ran out of gas!

Coach Kruger mumbles.: kinda like you did on the team

Trae : what did you say coach?

Coach Kruger: oh nothing

Trae:...and on the way back drove the car into a ditch

Coach Kruger mumbles: kinda like what you did with this team

Trae: what did you say coach?

Coach Kruger: glad you made it back safely.

Coach Kruger approaches the door

Trae:....hey coach heres your keys ( tossing them to Kruger)

Kruger catches them

Kruger mumbles: thanks for nothin

Trae:what did you say coach

Kruger: oh goodnight 😩

The End .

Brad Watson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Great job last night!!!!!....Now the critique...Dok.....you can never forget to concentrate on your form when you are shooting free throws....its a routine that you must follow every time..keep at it son.....besides that you played very well....to the rest of the team.....coach is right...the last 10 minutes were sloppy.......you have to go all out for the complete 40 minutes...no let down ...ever....that's the formula moving forward into the March tournaments....in a one and done...going to sleep for just a couple of minutes will send you home....so keep your focus. Again we love you guys and are behind you 100%!!

Matthew Coleman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Where can we find video of Shaka Smart's post game comments?

W Keith Swinehart II 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We should count our blessings. I can't imagine that this can ever happen again. And it all starts with James Naismith's original rules of basketball, and KU doing the right thing at the right time.

Loved the story, Tom.

Vic Janeway 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Congrats Hawks!

here's the but; more bounce passes under the basket. AA pull in that elbow please....; )

Dirk Medema 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We were in on plenty of players. TK - Is that a veiled reference to the (potential) scandal elsewhere? We were also a finalist for a couple of dookies that would have made all the difference in the world.

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