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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Gooden feeling much better

February 19, 2002

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Iowa State was just what the doctor ordered.

Clinching a share of the Big 12 Conference basketball title didn't hurt either.

Kansas, playing its first game since regaining the No. 1 ranking, hammered Iowa State, 102-66, on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks celebrated by cutting down the net  or most of it  at the north end of James Naismith Court.

"It was a great game," KU junior forward Drew Gooden said. "I couldn't be any happier with tonight."

Gooden wasn't quite as cheery last week when he was slowed by the flu. He tied a season-low with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting in Saturday's 87-72 victory over Baylor.

"You don't have to be a nuclear physicist to see that the boy had more bounce and was livelier," said KU coach Roy Williams, who won his first league title in four years. "You saw him smiling tonight. Saturday, even when he did some good things, he wasn't smiling."

Gooden made his first six shots Monday. His dunk with 6:29 left in the first half gave Kansas a 29-15 lead.

Even when he missed, Iowa State couldn't stop Gooden. His seventh shot didn't fall, but Gooden chased down the rebound  with a Cyclone pulling at his shirt  and scored for a 33-20 advantage.

Williams said the Jayhawks  who were outrebounded in the first half Saturday against Baylor  had a meeting before the game to refocus on the rebounds. Gooden responded with a game-high nine boards, and KU held a 36-25 advantage on the glass.

The leading candidate for Big 12 player of the year finished with 26 points in 26 minutes. He made 12 of 16 field goals and two of two free throws.

"He's moving a lot better in practice yesterday and in the game today," said freshman post player Wayne Simien, who scored 15 points. "He's a vicious scorer. Him coming in healthy really helped us."

Gooden wasn't so sure.

"I feel about the same as I did against Baylor, but I had more endurance, more energy," he said.

The Jayhawks led 49-25 at halftime, and Gooden and his teammates didn't slow down after the break.

Gooden scored on an entry pass from Nick Collison with 11:41 remaining and tipped in Collison's miss 33 seconds later. He knocked down two foul shots on KU's next possession for a 76-41 lead with 10:35 to play.

The game was out of hand, and Williams pulled his starters early. Gooden, who played just 10 minutes in the second half, went to the bench with eight minutes remaining.

When it was over, the Jayhawks donned Big 12 champion T-shirts and hats and then went to work on the aforementioned net.

When Gooden climbed the ladder to take his piece of the nylon, the fieldhouse crowd chanted, "One more year," referring to speculation that the junior might turn pro after this season.

"It was different," he said. "I hear it all the time as far as individuals asking me about it. The whole crowd got into it. I'm sure we'll hear more of it."

The junior has plenty of other things to think about besides the NBA. Kansas has three regular-season games remaining, followed by the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

That brings us back to the net. The Jayhawks each took a piece of it, but they left remnants hanging from the rim. KU's fans got the message and let out a roar of approval as the team left the court.

"We left two loops up for unfinished business," Gooden said. "This is one step. This was one of our goals, but we have others."

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