Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Woodling: Showdown with OSU will be KU’s litmus test

February 22, 2005


— Ask me Sunday night.

That's when I'll know -- and you'll know -- how good Kansas University's men's basketball team is.

Yes, the Jayhawks have lost three straight, but for weeks now it has been clear that Sunday's game against Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse will decide the Big 12 Conference championship.

And it still will. Even after KU rolled a turkey -- its third straight strike -- by bowing to Oklahoma, 71-63, Monday night.

Oklahoma State lost in OU's Noble Center, too. That was several weeks ago.

"Last time we played Oklahoma State here," OU coach Kelvin Sampson said, "Oklahoma State was on a two-game losing streak, and look at them now."

The Cowboys haven't lost since.

"Now, Kansas is on a three-game losing streak, and they could win the rest of their games," Sampson said.

Obviously, the Jayhawks won't, however, if they don't start performing at a higher level.

The most astonishing aspect of KU's latest loss was the fact the Jayhawks shot 52.3 percent. How many times does a basketball team shoot better than 50 percent and lose?

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, two ongoing bugaboos negated the dynamic field-goal accuracy. The Jayhawks were guilty of 15 turnovers -- an unsightly six by Aaron Miles -- and they surrendered 11 offensive rebounds.

Two stick-backs, in fact, killed the Jayhawks' comeback bid. One was by Kevin Bookout with 3:54 remaining -- a basket that boosted the Sooners' lead to four. The other, and more important, was a follow shot by Taj Gray with 2:36 showing that gave OU an eight-point bulge.

KU's Wayne Simien (23) loses a rebound to Terrell Everett (20).
Simien collected six boards, while Everett had eight, in the
Sooners' victory.

KU's Wayne Simien (23) loses a rebound to Terrell Everett (20). Simien collected six boards, while Everett had eight, in the Sooners' victory.

Curiously, that was the only rebound all night by Gray, the Wichita prep product who was in early foul trouble and no factor at all until that critical put-back.

Then again, you would have expected the Jayhawks to have rebounding woes in the second half because KU coach Bill Self went with slender 6-foot-7 freshman Alex Galindo virtually the entire second half in his latest attempt to find a fifth man.

With Christian Moody still ailing with a staph infection, Self is throwing virtually a four-man team on the floor. Not only can't he find dependability at the power forward spot, he is receiving nothing off the bench.

OU's bench outscored the Jayhawks' reserves, 18-7, and those seven points were all from Galindo.

Nobody would call Moody a great player. Shoot, he's a walk-on, but his absence seems to be causing chemistry problems. When Moody fouled out in the second overtime against Texas Tech a week ago Monday, the Jayhawks were leading. But they couldn't finish.

With Moody in street clothes, the Jayhawks fell to Iowa State in overtime Saturday when they couldn't take advantage of the Cyclones' poor late free-throwing. With Moody again watching Monday night, the Jayhawks had the Sooners walking on egg shells in the second half, yet gave them new life by allowing those two stick-backs.

Back in October, nobody had a clue that Moody would evolve into such an important piece of this season's puzzle. Now there have to be doubts about the Jayhawks' ability to knock off Oklahoma State on Sunday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.

Why is Moody so important?

"He's the one big guy who can feed the ball to Wayne," Self said.

Simien, the Big 12's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.7 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, had 17 points against the Sooners, and Big Dub earned them all, with Bookout, a 260-pound shot putter, bumping and thumping him all night.

If it's any consolation, Kansas isn't the only ranked team in a slump. Syracuse has dropped four of its last six after a 20-1 start. But this is Kansas, not upstate New York.

Eight bad days don't make a season. Eight days from now, the whole perception of KU basketball may have changed -- depending, of course, on the outcome of the OSU game.

A victory Sunday over the Cowboys would be the best one-game win streak a Kansas team has ever had.

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