This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the defending champions. Instead, Kansas is proving it still belongs among the elite teams.
The Jayhawks look to extend their 36-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon against an Oklahoma State team that handed them their final defeat before last season’s title run.
No. 21 Kansas (18-4, 7-0 Big 12) returns to Lawrence after winning its seventh straight overall on Monday, 75-65 at Baylor. Junior Sherron Collins, the Jayhawks’ leading returning scorer from last season at 9.3 points per game, had a team-high 17 to go with six assists against the Bears. Named one of 17 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award—presented to the nation’s best college point guard—on Thursday, Collins is averaging 18.4 points and 4.7 assists during Kansas’ seven-game streak.
Freshman Marcus Morris scored the team’s first eight points following halftime as the Jayhawks opened the second half on a 16-7 run. Morris finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
“That takes the load off everybody else and draws him attention,” Collins said. “People worry about him and it opens things up for everybody else. I think it was big for him to play real big for us.”
Kansas’ 36-game home win streak is the longest current run in the nation and third-longest in school history. Oklahoma State, which beat the Jayhawks 61-60 last season in Stillwater, has lost 13 in a row at Allen Fieldhouse since an 87-81 win on Feb. 8, 1989.
Marcus’ twin brother Markieff just missed his first double-double with nine points and nine rebounds on Monday as Kansas improved to 7-0 in conference for the first time since winning its first 10 in 2004-05.
“Our guys played older tonight,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, who graduated from Oklahoma State in 1985 and served as an assistant there under Eddie Sutton from 1987-93. “We played like a pretty poised team for the most part.”
Self met briefly with Oklahoma State in the offseason to discuss its coaching vacancy after winning the NCAA tournament title, but opted to return to Kansas, which then signed him to a lucrative contract extension.
Since their 75-62 loss to then-No. 8 Michigan State on Jan. 10, the Jayhawks are outscoring opponents by 12.8 points per game while shooting 52.1 percent. Kansas, which is holding opponents to 38.1 percent shooting during this stretch, leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense at 38.4 percent—17th in the nation.
Under first-year coach Travis Ford, Oklahoma State (14-7, 3-4) is averaging 84.0 points—fifth in Division I—but has shot 41.8 percent or worse three times in losing four of its last six. The Cowboys avoided a three-game losing streak by rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit—tying a school record—in beating Texas Tech 81-80 on Wednesday.
“They were doing some things (in the first half) that we hadn’t guarded before,” senior guard Byron Eaton told the school’s official Web site. “We couldn’t get out legs under us.”
That wasn’t a major problem for Eaton, though, as he scored a career-high 29 points while hitting 18-of-20 free throws. Eaton scored 26 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 12.6 seconds to play in last season’s win over then-No. 4 Kansas.
Sophomore guard James Anderson grabbed a career-high 12 boards against the Red Raiders. He could face a stiffer challenge against the Jayhawks, who have outrebounded their last four opponents by an average of 11.3.
Kansas leads the all-time series 101-52.