Jayhawks Top Sooners For Big 12 Lead
Feb. 23, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)--Without Blake Griffin, No. 3 Oklahoma is suddenly beatable -- and out of first place in the Big 12.
Tyshawn Taylor scored a career-high 26 points and Sherron Collins added 22 of his 26 points in the second half as No. 15 Kansas surged to the top of the conference standings with a 87-78 victory Monday night against third-ranked Oklahoma.
"We control our own destiny. We feel pretty good about it, but we know it's not a given yet," Collins said. "We've still got to go out and make it happen."
Cole Aldrich was able to dominate inside with the Sooners missing Griffin, a preseason All-American, because of a concussion. He had 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds as the Jayhawks (23-5, 12-1 Big 12) took control in the race for their fifth straight conference title.
"With or without Blake, they're a great team," Aldrich said. "They showed it tonight. Blake would have definitely helped a lot if they would have had him, but that's kind of how the ball bounces. You just get an unfortunate injury like that, and you've just got to go with it."
The Big 12's biggest game so far this season lacked some of the sizzle after Griffin was ruled out because of the concussion that left him dazed on the sidelines of the loss at Texas on Saturday night. The player of the year contender is the NCAA's leader in rebounding average (13.8) and double-doubles (22) and the Big 12's top scorer with 22 points per game.
But instead of suiting up, Griffin was in a dark sports jacket and jeans. He participated in a pregame team huddle in the tunnel and hugged Aldrich and Collins as he walked out to the court to watch the Sooners warm up. After that, he was merely a cheerleader.
He got fired up as the Sooners (25-3, 11-2) deployed a full-court press to eat away at the Jayhawks' lead that reached 20 midway through the second half, but the rally could only cut the deficit to three in the final 3 minutes.
"There's a reason that we've been so high in the polls all season. We've got guys that can play well besides him," said Taylor Griffin, Blake's older brother. "We were trying to look at this game as an opportunity to go out and show that. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes early on and errors throughout the game that kept us from doing that."
Willie Warren led the way with 23 points for Oklahoma, which has lost two in a row, including the 73-68 defeat at Texas when Griffin was first sidelined.
But Collins, the most experienced player remaining from the Jayhawks' national championship team from last year, simply made more big plays down the stretch.
Aldrich and Markieff Morris each had two-handed jams in a 15-2 spurt by the Jayhawks, and their lead stretched to 58-38 when the Sooners were called for goaltending on Taylor's layup with 10:38 to play.
Cade Davis followed Omar Leary's 3-pointer with two of his own to pull Oklahoma within 62-56 with just under 7 minutes to play, and Griffin came out to half court to greet his teammates and pat Juan Pattillo on the back at the next stoppage.
Leary hit another 3 to cut the deficit to 71-68 with 3:36 to play, but that's when Collins came up with Kansas' two biggest shots.
He answered at the other end and then did it again after Warren's 3 again got the Sooners within three.
Warren was called for an offensive foul on Oklahoma's next possession, and Pattillo then missed a right-handed dunk as the Jayhawks extended the lead out to 80-71 when Taylor made up for two missed free throws with a layup. Kansas was able to seal it from the free-throw line after that.
"I'm not saying the outcome would have been different, but certainly it would have changed a lot of different things," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "And we wish he would have played."
Self hopes the Jayhawks meet the Sooners again with Griffin in the lineup, particularly if that means both teams have advanced deep in the Big 12 tournament.
"I would like to have our guys have the opportunity to have our guys play against the best player in the country," Self said.
Pattillo added 15 points and Taylor Griffin scored 11 for Oklahoma, which had a 19-game home winning streak snapped. Point guard Austin Johnson had the Sooners' opening basket, but used a heat pad on his troublesome back during the game and didn't score again in the final 39 minutes.
Warren had eight points in an early 20-2 run that put Oklahoma up 22-8, but Taylor led Kansas right back by scoring 11 of the Jayhawks' points in a 16-0 response.
Taylor then hit three free throws and Tyrel Reed sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with the clock running down to send Kansas to a 36-29 halftime lead.
"When we're at full strength, we're as good as anyone in the country," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "When we get everyone back, I think we'll be OK. These are just two bumps in the road for us."