Sweating buckets: Jayhawks survive scare from NU, 63-60
It looked as if it might be time finally to wave bye-bye to Kansas University’s 68-game homecourt basketball win streak.
“When I did look up (at scoreboard), I was like, ‘Dang, they’ve got us by 10 points?”’ incredulous KU junior guard Tyshawn Taylor said Saturday.
By “they,” he was referring to the defensive-minded Nebraska Cornhuskers, who dominated the backboards and controlled the pace in building a double-digit lead with 16:22 left.
“Once we all saw that, we just locked in and did what we do. We got some easy buckets, caused some turnovers and got right back in it,” Taylor added.
Indeed, the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks (17-0, 2-0) used a 15-4 run to grab a one-point lead with 11:48 left and eked out a 63-60 victory over the pesky Huskers (13-4, 1-2), who dropped their 12th straight game to KU in Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks have won 69 in a row … and counting.
“Definitely you are sweating when you are down 10 at home. There are not too many times we get down 10 to anybody,” said KU junior Marcus Morris, who scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.
“We were sweating (after turning the ball over five straight times to start the second half), but we have a great team, a family-oriented team. We pulled the guys to the side and said, ‘Man, it’s time to go. We can’t give up this home streak.’ And we didn’t want to lose a league game,” Morris added.
Morris was involved in a batch of plays — some good, some bad — down the stretch as KU overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half (in a victory) for the first tine since a 67-55 decision over NU on Feb. 24, 2002, in Lincoln.
Morris’ dunk with 5:51 left — which was followed by slams by Thomas Robinson (nine points, five boards) and Markieff Morris (seven points, seven boards) — helped KU claim its biggest lead, 58-52, with 3:07 left.
“At the end we put everything on the line and gave everything we had. I think we wanted it a little bit more,” Morris said, adding in his next breath, “Nebraska’s a great team. I felt they never were going to go away.”
Marcus foolishly fouled Eshaunte Jones moments later on a three-point basket. Jones swished the free throw to reduce the gap seriously to 58-56 at 2:37.
“Anything the refs call is what the refs call,” Morris said, not disputing the whistle. “I think he (Jones) kind of kicked his legs out when I ran into his legs, but I haven’t really been guarding that much on the wing. It was kind of a dumb play by me, but it was (also) a good flop by him.”
Marcus then hit the boards hard in following a Mario Little miss to give KU a 60-56 lead at 2:11.
“That tip-in by Marcus was a big-time play,” KU coach Bill Self assessed.
Yet Marcus missed the front end of a one-and-one following two Jones free throws at 1:10. The lead remained two points following Brandon Richardson’s miss of the front end of a one-and-one at :53.4.
Marcus hit a pair of free throws at :21.6 to give KU a 62-58 advantage. However, Lance Jeter cashed a layup at :12, and Tyrel Reed hit just one of two free throws at :10.4.
Given a chance to tie, NU’s Caleb Walker, who grew up in Hutchinson, misfired on a three at :03.
After KU’s successful inbounds pass, with :0.3 remaining, the game was over.
“Nebraska totally controlled the game the first 25 minutes, but we contributed to that. We didn’t play a lick the first 25 minutes. I think we had 15 turnovers in the first 25 minutes,” said Self, whose Jayhawks finished with 15 turnovers to NU’s 15.
“They killed us on the glass (43-32). Their bigs dominated our bigs, but more importantly their bigs dominated our guards. Our guards didn’t get anything cleaning up possessions. We made some bonehead plays and some bad fouls down the stretch, but we really competed hard,” Self added.
He cited Robinson’s hustle and board work the second half as a key to KU handing NU its 16th straight loss to KU, 12th straight in Allen.
“He posted strong, got a couple touches in tight, got offensive rebounds in transition,” Self said of Robinson. “It wasn’t offense as much as broken plays. That’s how you win games. You have to have guys make plays when they are broken. When the ball is in the air, who gets it? We finally won the majority of those the last five to 10 minutes.”
Self primarily used Reed and Brady Morningstar in the backcourt along with the Morris twins, Robinson and Little during the second half. Josh Selby didn’t play the final 16 minutes.
“Hopefully this was just a youth game, so to speak,” Self said.
Freshman guard Selby had three points and four turnovers with no assists in 13 minutes.
“The bottom line is, you have to win the game,” Self said. “You have to make sure when things aren’t going well, you put your team in position where you can still win by doing some things.”
It was a narrow victory against an NU team that went 2-14 in the Big 12 last year.
“Our Big 12 — and fans may say we played poorly and we did play poorly — but our Big 12 is a lot like the NFL in that anybody can beat anybody any day. There are no games you circle and say, ‘This is for sure a win,’ especially when you’re well coached and tough. Doc (Sadler) has those guys playing,” Self said.
KU will travel to Baylor for an 8:35 p.m tipoff on Monday in Waco, Texas.