Kansas and Colorado have routinely been at opposite ends of the Big 12 standings in recent years, but the unheralded Buffaloes have given the Jayhawks all they can handle the last two times the teams have faced each other.
No. 1 Kansas will attempt to fend off Colorado again Saturday as it tries to extend its nation-best home win streak to 57 games and possibly clinch a share of a school record-tying sixth straight conference title.
The Jayhawks (25-1, 11-0) can clinch a share of the regular-season Big 12 crown with a win over the Buffaloes (12-13, 3-8), coupled with a Kansas State loss at Oklahoma. They also still have a chance to join the 2001-02 team as the only Kansas clubs to finish unbeaten in conference play.
Their run at a perfect Big 12 record nearly ended Feb. 3 in Boulder when Colorado rallied from a 16-point deficit to force overtime, but Kansas ultimately prevailed 72-66.
That game was eerily similar to last season’s 66-61 Jayhawks victory in Lawrence. Colorado came from 16 down to pull within two with 6:08 remaining, but Sherron Collins and Tyrel Reed hit pivotal shots down the stretch for Kansas.
“The reason we won over there in Boulder in overtime was not because we weren’t ready,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “It was because we didn’t play well, and they were a big reason that we didn’t. I thought we played tired. My goal for Saturday is for us to play fresh and play with great energy.”
Self said his team also played tired Monday night at No. 24 Texas A&M, but the Jayhawks relied on their defense and won 59-54.
Marcus Morris, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry had 12 points apiece to lead Kansas, which failed to reach 60 points for only the second time this season.
The Jayhawks are shooting 41.8 percent over their past three games, but have extended their overall winning streak to 11 by allowing an average of 60.3 points on 35.4 percent shooting.
“We’re finding a way to still win even though we’re not making shots right now, which is good,” said Self, whose team leads the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 36.4.
Colorado rediscovered its shooting touch Wednesday night and snapped a season-high four-game slide. After firing at a 36.5 percent clip during their skid, the Buffaloes hit half their shots in a 77-67 home victory over Oklahoma.
Cory Higgins led Colorado with 18 points, the 19th straight game in double figures for the team’s leading scorer (18.1 ppg). Alec Burks, who missed the previous matchup with the Jayhawks due to a sprained left knee, added 17.
The conference’s top freshman scorer (16.8 ppg), Burks has reached double figures in all but one game - when he suffered his injury Jan. 30 at Iowa State.
Last season’s defeat in Lawrence is part of a 34-game conference road losing streak for the Buffaloes that began Feb. 5, 2006. It’s been even longer since Colorado beat the Jayhawks - 60-59 on Jan. 22, 2003. The Buffaloes haven’t won in Lawrence since Feb. 10, 1983.
Kansas leads the all-time series 118-39, has won 50 of 55 matchups at Allen Fieldhouse and 53 of 56 overall meetings since 1984-85.
The Buffaloes are 0-13 all-time against top-ranked opponents, including six losses to Kansas.