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Archive for Monday, January 20, 1992

BIG EIGHT TEAMS HAVING HARD TIME WINNING AT HOME

January 20, 1992

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Wasn't it just a couple of years ago when everyone was wondering if a Big Eight basketball team would ever win a game on the road?

Now the question is: Can't anybody win in their own barn?

Here we are barely into the conference race and already visitors have captured five of the first eight contests.

Only Oklahoma State (twice) and Iowa State have claimed home victories. Kansas and Oklahoma need an asterisk, though. KU and OU haven't had a home game yet.

Kansas, as you know, owns two of the five Big Eight road wins 92-80 in overtime at Missouri and 81-80 on Saturday night in Boulder.

Coach Roy Williams talks a lot about poise and, if ever the Jayhawks needed poise, it was in Columbia and Boulder. Talk about intimidating atmospheres. In each instance, a raucous sellout crowd turned the arena into a snake pit.

AT MISSOURI, that's been traditional ever since the scurrilous Antlers began spewing epithets several years ago. But Colorado???

Time was when Colorado had the most peaceful barn in the Big Eight. You could almost hear a hiccup in the CU Events Center. Then they changed the name to the Coors Events Center and started selling beer.

Saturday night's crowd was just as abusive of the KU players and, of course, the officials as Missouri's was.

Signs in Colorado's arena warn that anyone under the age of 25 will be sold one beer only and that people over 25 can buy a maximum of two brews. Yet every time I turned around in my seat in press row, I saw students with beer. I suppose those students could have nursed their suds for the two-plus hours the game lasted, but I'm not Pollyanna, either.

Anyway, it's ironic you can buy beer at a Colorado basketball game, but you can't even find a beer sign at a Kansas basketball game. Just about every other kind of commercial sign glares in Allen Fieldhouse, but the KU athletic department draws the line on accepting brewery money.

I'M NOT SAYING beer has turned Colorado's arena from a tomb into a dome of din but, like chicken soup for a cold, it couldn't have hurt.

As I was saying, Kansas' first two league games were particularly satisfying because of the Jayhawks' ability to shut out inhospitable crowd noise.

Those road triumphs were equally impressive because Kansas won despite committing an average of 30.5 fouls per game and watching its two foes shoot an average of 42 free throws per contest. Also, Kansas overcame 20 turnovers in each game.

Given the free throw numbers and the turnover stats, how did Kansas do it?

Obviously it wasn't easy, but the secret was shooting. . .good shooting. KU shot 50 percent against Missouri and 53.4 percent against Colorado. Those figures are consistent with the Jayhawks' season averages.

KU's free throw shooting in those two road triumphs wasn't, though. Only a 64.6 percent foul-shooting team, Kansas made 77.3 percent of its charities (41 of 53) in Columbia and Boulder.

REMEMBER LAST year when Kansas went into the NCAA Tournament as the worst free-throw shooting team in the entire field? Williams' response to that negative stat was that the Jayhawks would make 'em when they had to.

Sure enough, Kansas went to the NCAA championship game. And, sure enough, the Jayhawks made free throws when they had to at Missouri and Colorado.

Now the Jayhawks have to prove they won't be vulnerable to the dreaded Big Eight Homecourt Syndrome when they entertain Nebraska here on Saturday afternoon.

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