Kansas Prepares for Sooners

By JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Writer

Winning the Big 12 regular season title isn't going to be enough to satisfy Kansas.

The second-ranked Jayhawks (27-4) hope to make a long run through the postseason, starting Friday when they face Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City.

Seeded No. 1 for the fifth time in the tournament's 11-year history, Kansas will look for its eighth win in a row as it begins defense of its 2006 tourney title. However, winning a fifth Big 12 tournament championship still won't do the job for the streaking Jayhawks, who captured three such crowns from 1997-99.

"We are telling them not to be satisfied," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "There was a big deal made out of us winning the league, and there should be any time you win the league, but that's not the goal. That is not the ultimate goal and now we need to shift our focus and stay hungry."

Kansas clinched the regular season championship with a 90-86 win over then-No. 15 Texas on Saturday. The Jayhawks overcame a 16-point deficit and a 32-point performance from Texas' Kevin Durant.

Julian Wright had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Kansas, while Mario Chalmers had 21 points and Russell Robinson added a career-high 17 as Kansas shot 61.1 percent (11-for-18) from 3-point range and 52.4 overall.

While Kansas averaged a margin of victory of 28.8 points in the first six games of its current streak, the last two wins have been much closer, including a 67-65 victory over Oklahoma on Feb. 26.

The Jayhawks won that game at Norman despite committing 12 second-half turnovers and blowing a 17-point lead. Mario Chalmers and Wright, who averages 12.0 points per game, each had 18 in the contest.

Chalmers is just ahead of Wright at 12.1 points a contest, and comes into the tournament averaging 18.5 in his last five games.

The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 tournament twice as a No. 1 seed -- in 1997 and '98 -- and Self likes the way they are playing heading into Friday.

"We have not played as well at certain times and then gone on big runs," Self said. "It is a very inexact thing. Over time, we've been pretty consistently good this year. I do think we're playing our best ball now.

"I would say that we're playing more consistently at a level that would warrant us being one of the better teams around."

Ninth-seeded Oklahoma (16-14) snapped a season-high six-game skid with a 68-63 win over Iowa State on Thursday, earning a second meeting with Kansas in 12 days. The Sooners' three Big 12 tourney titles, won from 2001-03, are second only to the Jayhawks' four.

While the tournament isn't being played in Norman, the Sooners should enjoy an advantage by playing in their home state. They struggled, though, to hold off the Cyclones on Thursday.

Nate Carter scored 22 points on 5-for-9 shooting and went 12-for-13 from the free-throw line as Oklahoma won despite shooting 40.0 percent from the field and blowing a 14-point lead.

"I'm proud of our guys," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "We feel very fortunate to be able to move on and play an incredibly talented Kansas team.

"It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

Carter, who averages a team-leading 11.8 points, had 20 in the loss to Kansas despite shooting just 4-for-15. He went 12-for-13 from the free-throw line and added nine rebounds.

Oklahoma has dropped two straight to Kansas, last beating the Jayhawks 71-63 on Feb. 21, 2005.


631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 6392267 - wibw.com/a?a=6392267