Kansas Regains Swagger
Power of the Phog cures Jayhawk woes
By Andrew Curtis
Adversity only makes all involved stronger, especially in the heat of battle. For the Kansas Jayhawks, this proved to be true Monday night at historic Allen Fieldhouse.
After losing three straight games for the first time since the 2005 season, KU returned home for a contest with the 10th ranked Kansas State Wildcats.
Kansas learned from the devastating home loss to Oklahoma State, the embarrassing debacle at TCU and the most recent disappointment and bounced back in a big way.
“What we are going through is what 98 or 99 percent of what teams in America go through,” head coach Bill Self said. “We have been so spoiled here because for so long we have not had these types of stretches. We had not gone through that.”
The 14th ranked Jayhawks, in typical fashion that we haven’t seen much of so far in conference play, landed a punch to the gut of the visiting Wildcats early and never looked back.
It looked like a whole new team out there. The Jayhawks responded to the uncontainable energy from the crowd and used it to play with more passion than they have played all year long, winning the game 83 to 62 and completing yet another season sweep of KSU.
On his 20th birthday, freshman Ben McLemore certainly rose to the occasion on Big Monday against the neighbors from westbound I-70. McLemore played as efficient as he possibly could, reaching the 30 point plateau for the 2nd time this season on just 13 shots, hitting six three-pointers and all seven free throws while grabbing seven rebounds.
Jeff Withey also joined the fun by starting something we’ve all become accustomed to: His own block party. Withey blocked five shots to break Greg Ostertag’s Kansas record for blocked shots in a career and notched yet another double-double with 17 and 10.
Naadir Tharpe proved he needs to continue to see more minutes at point guard, and Kevin Young provided his usual sparkplug of energy to the team. Travis Releford also contributed double figures in points with ten.
Elijah Johnson continued his struggles, shooting just 1-6 from the field with 4 turnovers, but I have plenty of faith that the senior will snap out of his slump and perform well in March.
If you want to call this a rivalry in basketball, you’d have a hard time proving so. Kansas has now won 46 of the past 49 meetings with Kansas State, and the Wildcats haven’t even contended with the Jayhawks in my four years going to school at KU.
This game was over by the ten-minute mark of the first half, with the crowd seizing all the momentum and sucking the life out of the visitors in purple.
It’s pretty clear to everyone by now. Kansas has regained its swagger and confidence. KU is now going to be able to play with that jump in their step that had seemed to be missing for awhile, until Monday night of course.
Once again, KU controls its own destiny for a 9th straight Big 12 regular season title. A home matchup with Texas with College Gameday in town awaits, as well as tough road contests at Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor.
Kansas controls its own destiny. If the Jayhawks win out, they win the Big 12. It’s as simple as that. Monday night proved that the Jayhawks are back and here to stay. That’s bad news for the rest of the conference.