Jayhawks Beat Aggies in Big 12 Semifinal
Kansas does not often use a zone defense, and a shell-shocked Texas A&M must be wondering why.
Outplayed all night, the No. 1 Jayhawks went with a zone and a variation of a zone and embarked on a stunning 21-2 run that broke a tight game wide open Friday night and led them to a 79-66 victory over the Aggies (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) in a Big 12 semifinal.
Xavier Henry scored 11 points in the run, while Texas A&M went eight minutes without a field goal.”Maybe it just got them out of rhythm, and it was hard for them to get it back,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Whether it was the zone or our offense or whatever, we played pretty good the last 10 minutes. We got the ball where it needed to go and our first-shot defense was good and we rebounded the ball pretty well.”Texas A&M (23-9) led by as many as nine points early in the second half while the regular-season Big 12 champion Jayhawks (31-2) fouled and fumbled and committed turnover after turnover.But when the Aggies went cold, the Jayhawks went hot, hitting seven straight shots at one point.”I thought we were great for 32 minutes,” Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “My guys gave it everything they had. They executed, they defended. We’re not going to make any excuses. But for 32 we were really good.”Sherron Collins had six of his 26 points in the big run that made Kansas 16-1 all-time against the Aggies and sent them into the finals against the semifinal winner between No. 9 Kansas State and Baylor (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP).Donald Sloan, playing in his school-record 136th game, hit a jumper at the 8:52 mark that put the Aggies on top 57-56. But A&M didn’t have another bucket until Sloan connected with 45.8 seconds left. Sloan led the Aggies with 24 points.”They’re really good when they’re really physical like that,” Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis said. “They hit three big 3s. The physicality of the game had been pretty much even until the last eight minutes of this game and they were able to pull away from us.”
Marcus Morris, the Jayhawks’ third-leading scorer, picked up his fourth foul with 11:58 to play and the Aggies holding a 51-48 lead. Less than a minute later, Cole Aldrich went to the bench with his third. With Morris and Aldrich both on the bench and A&M leading 55-51, Kansas coach Bill Self went with the zone and a small lineup with only one player over 6-foot-6.Henry immediately drained a 3-pointer that ignited the game-turning run that gave Self his 200th win as coach of the Jayhawks, one game after the storied program recorded all-time win No. 2,000.”My 11 points, it was all my teammates finding me,” Henry said. “They looked for me all the time and I just tried to find the open shot.”Officials called a double technical foul on Markieff Morris and Davis after the teams began jawing at each other while struggling for the ball under the Aggies basket. Coaches went on to the court to separate everyone.Texas A&M, a 59-54 loser at home to Kansas in February, also got 14 points from Khris Middleton and 12 from B.J. Holmes. Henry had 15 points and Markieff Morris had 10, while Cole Aldrich, plagued by turnovers in the first half, had nine points and nine rebounds.The Aggies took advantage of an uncharacteristic 12 turnovers by Kansas to seize a 38-35 halftime lead.Aldrich, the Jayhawks’ 6-11 all-conference center, was particularly fumble-fingered in the first half, committing four quick turnovers and was even benched for a few minutes.After rebounding a miss by A&M, Aldrich had the ball simply slide out of his grasp into the hands of an Aggie, drawing a pained “what’s the matter?” expression from his close friend Collins.”A&M controlled the game for the most part for the first 30 minutes and we were a basket or two behind the entire time,” Self said. “I thought we tried real hard in the first half, but we had a few defensive breakdowns from a mental standpoint, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort.”