Kenny Gregory's offensive output is a lot like the Kansas weather. If it's not what you want, just be patient. It'll improve.
After two consecutive gloomy games -- both Kansas losses -- Gregory shined again Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse with a game-high 19 points as the Jayhawks dumped Kansas State, 62-47.
"I wouldn't necessarily say I'm the key to the team," Gregory said, "but I think we're a better team when I play well."
Kansas is 7-2 when Gregory is the leading scorer.
Gregory scored a grand total of six points in the last two games. Lingering back problems didn't help. He said he's been reluctant to drive to the basket because of the discomfort.
"Yeah, it hurt," Gregory said about the back pains which he said disappeared again over the weekend. "The last three or four games it's really bothered me. It started to feel better again Sunday, but I haven't wanted to make it my big excuse for not playing well."
After coming off the bench early, Gregory wasted little time showing he was healthy. He had 11 first-half points, and they came mainly off aggressive penetration.
A conventional three-point conversion, a monster dunk, and a ankle-buckling fall-away jumpshot gave Gregory his first six points and restored his confidence.
Gregory was quiet in the second half until KU's lead had shrunk to 51-46 after an 8-0 KSU run with about three minutes remaining.
Gregory blew past one K-State defender, exploded underneath and finished on the other side with a reverse layup that also drew a foul and ended KSU's rally.
"Coach has been telling me that I'm at my best when I drive to the basket," Gregory said. "That was a situation where I took what the defense gave me."
Williams was worried more about Gregory's health than the two points.
"It was a big play," Williams said. "I thought it would hurt his back, but he hurt my back on a play like that."
Gregory had 16 points in KU's 69-46 rout on Feb. 1 in Manhattan. Until Wednesday, that had been Gregory's best game of the last three after disappointments of seven points (Colorado), zero (loss at Nebraska) and six (loss at Texas Tech).
Playing an in-state rival at home was Gregory's pain-killer.
"I guess I put the pain in the back of my mind and focused on this game," Gregory said. "It's such a big rivalry and we really needed the win."