Before Kansas can worry about next week’s showdown with the only team ahead of it in the Big 12, the Jayhawks must avoid slipping against a league opponent they’ve had little trouble with in recent years.
Fifteenth-ranked Kansas looks for a third straight victory overall and 13th in a row over Nebraska on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Considering its recent dominance over Nebraska, it’s possible that Kansas (21-5, 10-1) is looking ahead to Monday’s matchup with No. 2 Oklahoma in Norman. Separated by one game in the conference, it’s the only regular season meeting between the Jayhawks and Sooners.
While Kansas looks to avoid a letdown Saturday as it goes for a 39th straight victory at Allen Fieldhouse, Oklahoma must win at Texas for the first time in four seasons in order to remain perfect in league play.
“Monday’s game against Oklahoma isn’t a big game unless we take care of business on Saturday,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “(Nebraska) gave us everything we wanted in Lincoln (on Jan. 28) and we were fortunate to win.”
The memory of that game could help keep the Jayhawks focused on the task at hand. The Cornhuskers (16-8, 6-5) led by five at halftime before Kansas outscored them 39-28 in the second half en route to a 68-62 victory.
Nebraska hasn’t beaten Kansas since a 74-55 home win Feb. 15, 2004.
Kansas shot 56.4 percent in the January meeting, but may not need to be so accurate Saturday as it tries for a 10th straight victory over Nebraska at Allen. The Huskers’ last victory in Lawrence came by a 64-59 score Feb. 10, 1999.
While the final score wasn’t close, Self hopes for a more complete effort from his team than what he saw in a 72-55 win over Iowa State on Wednesday. Kansas committed 18 turnovers, but limited the Cyclones to 32 percent shooting - the 65th straight game the Jayhawks have held an opponent under 50 percent.
“I don’t think we were as juiced as we should be at home,” said Self, whose squad has won two in a row since losing 62-60 at then-No. 17 Missouri on Feb. 9 - its lone Big 12 defeat. “So our focus wasn’t great, but we came out and played really well early and guarded them really well.”
Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich each had 22 points for the Jayhawks, who made 50.0 percent from the field after shooting 56.8 percent in an 85-74 win at Kansas State last Saturday.
The two most experienced returning players from last season’s national championship squad, Collins (17.8 ppg) and the 6-foot-11 Aldrich (14.9, 10.3 rpg) are the only Jayhawks averaging double figures in points.
“Sherron and I are looked upon as leaders on this team and when things come down to the wire, they look for us to make big plays,” said Aldrich, who had 11 rebounds Wednesday.
Aldrich has totaled 43 points in his last two games after being held to eight against Missouri. Collins scored a team-leading 17 versus Nebraska last month.
Nebraska’s Ade Dagunduro had a career-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting against Kansas. He scored 18 in a 46-41 win over Colorado on Wednesday.
The senior guard is averaging a team-leading 12.0 points for the Huskers, winners of four of five since losing three in a row.
The Huskers are holding opponents to a league-low 58.2 points per game, but are scoring 64.8 a contest - 11th in the Big 12.
Nebraska beat then-No. 16 Texas 58-55 at home Feb. 7 for its only win in four games against ranked opponents this season.