Xavier Henry may have grown up in Oklahoma, but he now has a chance to help Kansas make school history at the Sooners’ expense.
Having put a recent slump behind him, Henry will look to help the top-ranked Jayhawks clinch a share of their school record-tying sixth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title Monday night when they host Oklahoma.
Henry, the star freshman guard from Oklahoma City, originally signed a letter of intent to play for Memphis before the Jayhawks finished one game ahead of the Sooners in the 2008-09 conference race. The departure of Tigers coach John Calipari to Kentucky eventually led Henry to decommit and head to Lawrence.
It’s been an up-and-down first season for Henry, second on the Jayhawks with 13.6 points per game.
He averaged 17.2 points in his first 11 games but 9.2 points in the next 12, including a five-game stretch in which he failed to reach double figures.
Henry has since recovered to average 16.8 points over his last four games. He had 24 on Saturday, leading the Jayhawks (26-1, 12-0) in an easy 94-74 home victory over Colorado.
Sophomore Tyshawn Taylor added 17 in his return to the starting lineup after nine games coming off the bench, and seniors Sherron Collins and Brady Morningstar tied the school record for most wins (123) by a player in the Kansas program’s storied history.
With another victory Monday, the Jayhawks would extend their nation-best home winning streak to 58, and also would match a record set under legendary coach Phog Allen.
Kansas hasn’t won six consecutive regular-season conference titles since claiming Missouri Valley crowns from 1922-27. The Jayhawks have some room for error in their attempt to match that achievement, as they lead Kansas State by three games with four to play.
“It is really hard for anyone to do - especially in the tough conference that we have,” Collins said. “For me, winning three years in a row was nice, but to win four would be even more special.”
Winners of 12 in a row overall, Kansas will face a rebuilding Oklahoma team it has beaten five consecutive times.
After graduating national player of the year Blake Griffin, the Sooners (13-13, 4-8) are in line for their worst conference finish since the 1996-97 inception of the Big 12. Currently tied for eighth with Texas Tech, Oklahoma finished seventh in 2003-04 and 2006-07.
The Sooners might not have leading scorer Willie Warren (16.3 ppg) available in their attempt to avoid a fifth straight overall defeat. After Saturday’s 83-68 loss to No. 7 Kansas State, coach Jeff Capel said Warren’s status is unknown because of an ankle injury.
“I don’t know the technical term for it, but it’s something with his ankle,” Capel said. “He had an MRI, and he’s out indefinitely.”
The sophomore guard has missed four of the past eight games, first because of a sprained ankle and then mononucleosis.
Oklahoma is 7-8 all-time against No. 1 teams with three of those victories coming against Kansas, most recently in the 2002 Big 12 tournament. The Jayhawks, though, have won nine in a row over the Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse, including an 85-55 rout Jan. 14, 2008.
Oklahoma, which has not won in Lawrence since Feb. 17, 1993, has dropped 67 of 83 all-time matchups there.