13 total votes.
73 total votes.
Waco, Texas Bill Self smiled, then cut off a questioner in mid-sentence when asked if he was surprised his “relatively” young Kansas University basketball team played so well against an experienced Baylor Bears squad Monday night in Ferrell Center.
“Relatively?” Self said, feigning a look of shock.
Remember, his Jayhawks returned just two players who contributed significant minutes off last year’s NCAA title team, making his 2008-09 squad officially young in his eyes.
“Our guys played older tonight,” Self said after the 21st-ranked Jayhawks jolted Baylor, 75-65, and improved to 18-4 overall and a perfect 7-0 in Big 12 play.
“We played like a pretty poised team tonight for the most part in the second half.”
The Jayhawks, who blitzed the Bears (15-7, 3-5), 45-37, the second 20 minutes, won what many will see as a statement game.
KU is 4-0 on the road — 3-0 at home — in league play.
“Our guys were excited to play,” Self said after a game in which team leader Sherron Collins not only scored 17 points and dished six assists, but hounded Curtis Jerrells into a career-low four-point outing. KU also received 34 points and 18 rebounds from the Morris twins and Mario Little.
“I think that our 6-0 in the league ... some people probably viewed it as, ‘Well, they had a favorable schedule or whatever.’ Before the season, you don’t know it’s going to be favorable,” Self said. “We had a chance to play one of the most talented teams in the league tonight in their house. Our guys were excited to play.”
Self was mighty energized himself.
He thrust both fists into the air and to the side to celebrate a hustle bucket by Little (12 points, four boards) that concluded a possession kept alive by several other Jayhawks. The inside hoop capped a 12-4 run that upped a 54-51 lead to 66-55 at 3:41.
“Without Little, we probably don’t win the game,” Self said. He also lauded the work of the Morris twins: Marcus had 13 points, including eight straight in a flurry to start the second half; Markieff added nine points and nine boards.
KU’s coach also gushed about the peformance of Collins, who, by the way, made his first six free throws and in doing so ran his consecutive makes streak to 35 — which is the No. 1 streak in school history. Wayne Simien made 34 in a row in 2004-05.
Self’s praise had to do with Collins’ defense, not his offense.
BU point guard Jerrells went 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-4 on three-pointers. His only points came on four free-throw swishes in six attempts. Jerrells also had five assists and a turnover.
“I personally don’t think Sherron has been guarding of late. He’s been worried about other stuff,” Self said. “We challenged all our guys, ‘Hey, give of yourself. Guard first. When you focus in on that, more things happen naturally.’ That was the case.”
Collins took Self’s challenge to heart.
“He told me, ‘I’ve got to cut the head off.’ Jerrells is the head of the team,” Collins said. “I think I guarded him well. He (Self) wanted me to guard, not worry about scoring. I think I did that.”
Why he had been lacking defensively of late?
“I don’t think I’ve been doing as well as last year. I’m not used to playing as many minutes,” Collins said. “Coach challenged me, and I responded. It’s a challenge I look forward to. As I get used to playing more minutes, I think my defense will get better, too.”
Also an unsung-hero candidate on a night Cole Aldrich was limited to nine points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes was Tyrel Reed, who seems to hit a huge shot for KU every night.
This time, Reed connected on a jumper to give KU a 50-47 lead with 12:12 left. Pretty important, considering Baylor needed about two minutes to slice a 48-38 deficit to 48-47 at 12:22.
“That was a pretty big shot by Tyrel,” Self said of the sophomore guard, who had three points in 22 minutes
And a pretty big victory for the young Jayhawks, who will meet Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We’re doing well,” Collins said. “We can do a lot better. This team can play a lot better.”
Even such a young team?
“I can’t be too impressed. It’s what I expect out of the young fellas,” Collins said with a smile. “They showed the potential they have; the potential we have tonight.”