Tuesday, March 4, 2008
KU seniors Sasha Kaun, Russell Robinson, Rodrick Stewart, Jeremy Case and Darnell Jackson give their senior speeches after the Jayhawks' 109-51 victory over Texas Tech.
Some thoughts...from Allen Fieldhouse
Gary Bedore, Journal-World KU men's basketball beat writer
"It was a great Senior Night victory for KU. Fifteen players scored. It was nice to see Jeremy Case hit three threes. He's probably the nicest guy on the team and deserved ALL the applause he received. Nice game from so many players. You couldn't have scripted a better Senior Night. Perfect for KU and it s fans."
Tom Keegan, Journal-World sports editor
"Russell Robinson, the perfect teammate, had the perfect night. He made five of five field goal attempts, three of three three-pointers and two of two free throws. The rest of the seniors weren't far behind. The five starters combined to make 17 of 24 shots."
Ryan Greene, KUSports.com editor
"It was a great night for all five of the scholarship seniors, and it was good to see them each have solid nights. But I'll use my little space here to give a little shout to Brad Witherspoon, the sixth member of this senior class. Witherspoon earned his way onto the team through walk-on tryouts and is living the dream that most kids who grow up in small town Kansas possess. He's had two years I'm sure he'll never forget."
Inside the numbers
40: In an offensive onslaught by the Jayhawks, KU hit 40 of its 67 shot attempts on a night when everything seemed to fall. Included in that efficiency was a 14-of-24 performance from long range. In the second half, while KU strung together 58 points, Rodrick Stewart hit a pair of rainbow threes, and Jeremy Case splashed the net from beyond the arc three times. Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers also hit three deep balls each.
11: On Senior Night, KU fans got an extended glimpse of the future with freshman big man Cole Aldrich scoring 11 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. Aldrich showed more offensive variety than he has for much of the season, including an eight-foot hook shot from the left side of the rim after halftime.
10: It was such a balanced night for Kansas offensively that Brandon Rush, who earlier on Monday afternoon was named Big 12 co-Player of the Week, played just 10 minutes. Rush may have been a little too amped at times with all the emotion in the building as he hoisted a couple of airballs, but he still finished with seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in what could have been his final game in the Fieldhouse, too.
13: Sherron Collins continues to blaze a comeback trail, following up his 18-point, four-assist, four-steal showing Saturday against Kansas State with another well-rounded performance. Collins played 20 minutes, finishing with 13 points and three assists. Again, Kansas is on another level when he's off the bench at full health.
15: Russell Robinson had the best offensive night of any of the seniors to step on the Fieldhouse floor for the final time Monday. He hit all five shots he attempted - three from deep - and two free throws, finishing with 15 points, three assists and two steals. His first trey came not long before halftime, while his second and third came in KU's offensive blitz to start the second half, putting the game officially out of reach.
Just in case you missed it...
Mario Chalmers didn't mean to, but he may have provided the highlight of the year in the route of Tech. On the final play of the first half, he slashed to the hoop and went up in traffic, trying to draw contact and a foul. He was spun around mid-air, and with his back to the basket flipped the ball towards the rim. It missed completely, but went down as a highlight reel-worthy impromptu assist, with Darrell Arthur catching the airball and slamming it home with two hands.
Hopefully you didn't miss it...
Bill Self gushed about his senior class after the game, clarifying that this was the first class he's recruited, developed and seen all the way through in any of his four head coaching stops. Not only did they each perform well Monday night, but in the traditional postgame speeches at center court, each displayed his growth from the past four-plus years. Self made sure to point that out in his postgame press conference, too.
They said it...
Russell Robinson on Senior Night as a whole: "That was a great way to go out. I'll definitely remember we won, probably the one I'll remember the most. A lot of emotions behind it, and I enjoyed every second of it."
Russell Robinson on keeping up the momentum, starting on the road this Saturday at Texas A&M: "We're playing well right now, got a lot of momentum going on, and we've just got to keep it up. That's going to start Wednesday when we start practicing, and got the emotional stuff behind us, just use this as motivation to continue the rest of the season."
Russell Robinson on being confident against anyone on Senior Night: "Coach said about last week that he doesn't think the Lakers could beat us at home on Senior Night. So I kind of agree with him on that note, they have been playing well and it was a good team. And we knew we just had to come out with a lot of energy, play hard and we did that tonight...Coulda taken Kobe tonight. I think Brennan Bechard coulda taken Kobe tonight as well as everybody was playing today."
Russell Robinson on who had the best senior speech: "I'll go Darnell, was really emotional, I think he had a really great speech, but I was really surprised with Sasha. Sasha's speech was really touching, and I was really happy for him."
Jeremy Case on Senior Night: "I can't even remember. Never. Never felt that way. The crowd was so loud I couldn't hear myself think, it was amazing...Coming into the game, I didn't think anything like that, I just wanted to play as much as possible, and if I scored I scored, if I didn't I didn't. It was great, a great ending...Just the fans that stayed, that's amazing, they didn't have to stay just to listen to us talk, and that meant a lot."
Darnell Jackson on when things turned around before this weekend for the team: "I think it happened in practice, when we lost to OSU and we had practice the next day. I think a lot of guys realized that this is it, and we can't go out, losing in the first round, that hurt. And we don't want to have that happen again. So we came together as a team and just told each other that everybody needs to bring something to the table, so that's what we're gonna do."
Darnell Jackson on the weekend as a whole and its emotional impact: "That was a great combination, playing K-State at home, having Senior Night the next day, I think it was so great that the emotion just carried over the next day in practice and it carried over today in the game. I almost started crying because Russ started crying. I was like come on Russ, you can't be doing this. So I just told him just let it out. We've been through it all, we're gonna have to stay together as a family when we leave from here, so I know that we're gonna do that, because we're too close as a team, so we look at each other like brothers."
Bill Self on the team's last week: "We're playing better now. The last three games we've performed pretty well. That Wednesday-Saturday-Monday, just in a six-day stretch, we look like a totally different team. And I'm sure you guys would agree with the way we were playing before that."
Bill Self on the style of the win: "Nobody likes to be on that end, and I apologized (Texas Tech coach Pat Knight) after the game, and he's great. He's like 'It's not your fault,' because we did play guys and everybody made shots and they couldn't throw it in the ocean. But I didn't like that at all. I'm certainly glad we had a chance to play everybody, but still, nobody likes to win that way, by that margin."
Bill Self on the balance of his team Monday night: "The Big 12 Player of the Week played 10 minutes tonight. How often is that gonna happen? Of course, the great thing about it is he got 10 shots off in 10 minutes, and seven of them at least hit the rim. I think three of them were airballs. But we're a balanced team. And usually, though, for whatever reason, in teams that I've had, the seniors usually play well on senior night. With that being the case tonight, they deserved their minutes, as well, which kind of diluted everything else."
Bill Self on his senior class: "I've never had a better a one, but it's also the first one I've recruited and seen through...This took time to kind of court these guys, and get them convinced to come, and then to see this class through. You can talk about performance and a lot of different things, there's a lot of academic honors in the group, there's of course winning, a big part of it, growing up and becoming men. I know all kids do that in college, but this group's a little bit different because this group's probably been through more personal things than a lot of senior classes have. And also, don't take for granted, this senior class isn't from here. There's no built-in mom and dad. There's no built-in family. These guys are off on their own. To see them go through tough times and rally around each other and things like that, I take great pride in that. I don't get emotionally in public often, but I almost choked up before the game, I thought that was really cool. And those guys have represented this University in a way that, I know other schools have great kids and all those things, but we couldn't have got a better group of guys to represent us. They epitomize what we want to be. They're class, they work hard, they're tough - for the most part, not tough enough - and they're good performers. And you listen to them talk, I told them that the writers for Bush and McCain and Clinton and Obama or whoever, they couldn't have written better speeches than what those guys gave tonight. And that's pretty refreshing and pretty rewarding as a coach to see that."