Kansas had a surprisingly hard time winning its first game since regaining the nation’s No. 1 ranking. It can only hope the next contest is as easy as it might seem.
Coming off a pair of overtime road victories, the Jayhawks return home looking to continue their dominance at Allen Fieldhouse with a 15th consecutive victory over Nebraska in Saturday’s Big 12 matchup.
A thrilling 81-79 overtime win at then-No. 11 Kansas State last Saturday helped vault Kansas (21-1, 7-0) back to the top of the AP poll - a spot it owned for the first eight weeks of the season before losing at Tennessee on Jan. 10.
While the Jayhawks were expected to be tested by their archrivals, they likely didn’t expect to need overtime Wednesday to win 72-66 over a Colorado team that has two league victories. Whether it was fatigue or a hangover from their hard-fought win over Kansas State, the Jayhawks were held below 45 percent from the field for just the sixth time all season and missed 20 free throws.
“We didn’t play our best by any stretch, but if you go 18 of 38 from the line and your starting (perimeter players go) 8 of 26 from the field and you somehow get a win, then some guys had to make some plays,” coach Bill Self said. “We’ll look back on this as a good win.”
Cole Aldrich had 16 points with 14 rebounds, while fellow preseason All-American Sherron Collins scored 16 and forward Marcus Morris added 15 as the Jayhawks won their seventh in a row.
Though Kansas held the lowly Buffaloes to 37.5 percent shooting and outscored them 12-6 in overtime, the Jayhawks might look at that their latest effort as a wake-up call.
“We have got to be ready,” guard Tyrel Reed said. “We have to stay focused and keep getting better.”
The Jayhawks should be able to do that against last-place Nebraska (13-9, 1-6), which hasn’t beaten Kansas since Feb. 15, 2004. The Cornhuskers also have lost 10 in a row at Allen Fieldhouse, dating to Feb. 10, 1999, and the Jayhawks are looking to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 55 games.
Nebraska has shot 36.5 percent and averaged 57.1 points during its 14-game skid in the series.
Collins had 22 points and Morris added 19 as the Jayhawks shot 57.8 percent in an 84-72 win at Nebraska on Jan. 13.
The hero of the Kansas State game, overcoming back spasms to hit a key basket late in overtime, Collins is averaging a team-leading 15.5 points this season and 20.3 in his last three games against the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska’s Brandon Richardson scored 18 points and Jorge Brian Diaz added 15 against Kansas last month. Diaz had a team-leading 13 in the Cornhuskers’ 76-57 home loss to No. 10 Kansas State on Tuesday.
Though Nebraska allows a Big 12-low 61.0 points per contest, it’s last in the league in scoring at 66.4 per game.
The Cornhuskers are in the midst of a daunting stretch that continues with a home game versus No. 20 Baylor on Wednesday, then road contests against No. 9 Texas (Feb. 13) and Kansas State (Feb. 17).
“I know the team believes we can win,” Diaz said. “We’ve just got to keep looking forward.”
Nebraska has lost five straight road games against ranked opponents since winning 65-59 at then-No. 22 Texas A&M on Feb. 23, 2008.
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