Chris Cottrell has been a Journal-World employee since 1978, coming to Lawrence after a stint as sports editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He formerly covered Kansas University women's athletics, and now works as a copy editor in the sports department.
Down three. Seven seconds left. Who would Arizona go to? Seniors Jason Gardner and Luke Walton, of course.
Where have all the Big 12 Conference men's basketball fans gone? According to the latest league statistics, Kansas is the only school in the league that hasn't experienced an attendance decline. The Jayhawks, as they have been for years, are filling Allen Fieldhouse to its 16,300 capacity -- or very close to it.
With just over ten minutes to play in the game, Kansas hit the century mark on a Kirk Hinrich jumper. On the following time out, with KU up by 55 points, Roy Williams pulled all five starters. KU's bench and ESU played fairly evenly after that, but the Hornets outscored KU 19-13 after the Jayhawk starters left the game. All told, 11 different Kansas players scored.
It was a barn-burner in Tulsa. Roy's Boys rebounded from a loss at Oregon last weekend by making the Golden Hurricane their first road victom of the season, thereby avoiding its first 3-4 start since 1971. No matter how many times Kansas tried to pull away, the Golden Hurricane kept pulling back into the game.
After not holding the lead since three minutes into the contest, Kansas battled back from down by as many as 14 points to forge a tie with 3:40 remaining in the game. Oregon scored the next basket to regain the lead, and held KU to just one free throw on the next Jayhawk possession. In fact, Kansas could only hit one field goal after that tie, getting outscored 10-4, and let the game slip away.
Kansas did just fine without Kirk Hinrich. The four other regular starters each notched over 20 points - career nights for Wayne Simien and Aaron Miles - completely absorbing Hinrich's absence. On the down side, the Jayhawk bench did not step up, scoring just 10 points, including two from plug-in starter Bryant Nash on the only shot he put up. Combined, KU's bench went 2-for-13 from the floor, and 6-for-9 from the foul line.
Roy Williams warned everyone that he thought his team did not deserve all the preseason accolades heaped on them. This week the team proved him right. Before this week, Williams had never lost a preseason NIT game. Now he has lost two in a row. Despite a furious second-half comeback that whittled Florida's lead from 19 down to two points, Kansas could not overcome 14-for-31 three-point UF shooting. Overall, Kansas turned in a worse performance than Wednesday's loss to North Carolina, hitting just 38 percent from the floor, and only 22-of-36 free throws.
Kansas and Florida looked to come to New York City and slug it out for the preseason NIT championship. They will still play, but the prize will be not leaving the Big Apple with two straight losses. Roy Williams has never lost a pre-season NIT game until tonight. His team was unable to recover from 21 turnovers and UNC's fabulous freshmen, who played like seasoned veterens.
For a young team, the Kansas women's basketball squad is playing like they have been together for years. Kansas held on to their lead late, despite several Titan charges. At one point KU's lead was as large as 16 points, but was often as slim as four. Whenever CSU-Fullerton pulled close, Kansas would regroup and pull away again. Led by Blair Waltz and her career-high 20 points, KU has won back-to-back games since March 6, 2001.
Kansas' five starters are among the best in the nation. They are so good that saying they overshadow their bench would be a gross understatement - either that, or the Jayhawk bench is so far below standard that the starting five MUST carry the load. Either way, KU dominated the Spartans in every way that one basketball team can dominate another. Take out UNCG's top scorer and the visitors would have had only 39 points.