Sherron Collins was playing well before a foot injury interrupted his season. Kansas hopes he will again be effective now that he’s back.
After playing his first game in almost a month, the sophomore guard looks for some extensive minutes while helping the third-ranked Jayhawks remain undefeated when they face Ohio on Saturday at the Sprint Center as part of the Kansas City Shootout.
Collins scored six points—going 2-for-3 from 3-point range—in 13 minutes of Kansas’ 84-66 home victory over DePaul last Saturday. It was his first game since undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot on Nov. 12.
The 5-foot-11 guard, a starter to open the season, averaged a team-leading 16.0 points in the Jayhawks’ first two games before the injury was discovered after Kansas’ 85-62 win over Missouri-Kansas City on Nov. 11.
Though he missed six games, Collins—who scored 22 points in the team’s 107-78 season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe—returned two weeks earlier than initially expected.
“We just felt that any day now he would be back out there,” Kansas guard Russell Robinson said. “He got in there for a little bit and his presence was definitely felt. He is one of our leaders and one of our offensive powers.”
Collins, who averaged 9.3 points and was a key contributor for last season’s 33-5 team that reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament, will likely be eased back into Kansas’ talented lineup as the Jayhawks look to improve to 10-0 for the first time since 2004-05.
“We need him back so that we can have a full arsenal offensively,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We missed him.”
Though Collins will make the Jayhawks’ experienced lineup stronger, Kansas had little trouble getting by without him against a relatively easy non-conference slate.
Kansas showed its depth against DePaul as forward Sasha Kaun scored 15 points and Brandon Rush had 13 off the bench as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.
The Jayhawks shot 52.3 percent and benefited from a 24-1 first-half run against DePaul. It marked the fifth time they shot better than their 51.6 percent season average.
Kansas looks to continue its early success as it plays its first game in the new Sprint Center on Saturday. The Jayhawks hope to improve on their 185-74 record when playing in Kansas City - 38 miles from the Lawrence campus - as they face Ohio (6-2), which will try for its fifth straight victory.
“They play fast and they’re averaging over 70 points per game,” Self said of Ohio. “They switch defenses and that will be good for us because we haven’t played against a ton of teams that do that. It will be a good challenge for us.”
Ohio is coming off its biggest win of the season, 61-55 at Maryland on Wednesday. The Bobcats became just the fourth non-ACC team to beat the Terrapins on their home court in 19 seasons.
“This gives us momentum going into the game against Kansas,” said Ohio coach Tim O’Shea, whose team averages 76.6 points per contest. “I hope this gets their attention, and they might take us more seriously than they would have before this win.”
The Jayhawks are certainly aware of Ohio - picked third in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division - and must deal with forwards Leon Williams and Jerome Tillman.
Williams, who averages a team-leading 16.8 points and 10.0 rebounds, had 15 points and 15 boards against Maryland. Tillman, who averages 15.0 points, had 20 Wednesday. He’s averaging 18.5 points in his last two contests.
The Bobcats, whose two losses came by two points each at Holy Cross and Temple, will face their first ranked opponent of the season. Ohio has lost eight straight against Top 25 teams since winning 61-55 at then-No. 12 Syracuse on Dec. 4, 1998.
Saturday is the second meeting between these teams. Kansas won 49-38 on March 14, 1985 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.