Kansas-Oklahoma St. Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Kansas clinched at least a share of its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title with a thrilling victory over the weekend.
A win in Stillwater would give the No. 3 Jayhawks the conference title outright.
Kansas tries for a seventh consecutive win overall and fourth straight over Oklahoma State on Monday night.
The Jayhawks (24-5, 14-2) stormed back from a 19-point second half deficit to beat then-No. 3 Missouri 87-86 in overtime Saturday. It was probably the final regular-season meeting between the schools for the foreseeable future with the Tigers headed to the SEC next season.
"I hate nothing more than losing to Missouri, but to me it wasn't about the last time we played," coach Bill Self said. "To me it was about this team winning its eighth straight championship."
"I'm not the most emotional guy, but that was as good as it gets."
Stars Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson combined for 52 points for Kansas, which moved two games ahead of Missouri in the standings with Saturday's win and may have grabbed the inside track to a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. Both teams have two games remaining on their schedules.
"The regular-season is more important than your tournament in the BCS conferences, in my opinion," Self said. "To me, we put all our emphasis on winning the regular season."
The Jayhawks, though, have experienced some difficulty of late at Gallagher-Iba Arena. They've dropped three of four there - most recently falling 85-77 on Feb. 27, 2010.
Since that defeat, however, Kansas has outscored Oklahoma State (14-15, 7-9) by an average of 14.4 points in winning three straight meetings. The Jayhawks cruised to an 81-66 home win over the Cowboys on Feb. 11 behind 24 points and 14 rebounds from Robinson. Center Jeff Withey also came up huge in that game, compiling 18 points and a career-high 20 boards.
Withey entered the weekend averaging 12.6 points and 7.8 boards over a 12-game stretch but was limited to two points in just nine minutes Saturday after suffering a sprained left ankle early on. While X-rays came back negative, his status for this contest is unknown.
Oklahoma State, which upset then-No. 2 Missouri 79-72 on Jan. 25 thanks to a season-high 27 points from Le'Bryan Nash, managed to overcome his absence during Saturday's 60-42 win over Texas A&M. The freshman standout suffered an apparent fracture in his left hand during Wednesday's 77-64 loss at Oklahoma.
With Nash sidelined, guards Brian Williams and Keiton Page combined for 32 points and helped limit the Aggies to 31.9 percent shooting.
"We just want to show people that even if we are down one, we can still compete," forward Michael Cobbins said. "We need everybody to step it up a level, and fill in his shoes."
There's a chance Nash - second on the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game - may play despite his injury. His availability would surely give the Cowboys a greater chance at knocking off the Jayhawks.
"When I was in high school, I saw (former Cowboys guard) James Anderson and the team beat Kansas, and that was pretty special," Williams said. "I got a little taste of the whole rushing the court thing when we beat Missouri, but I want to do it again."
Oklahoma State has won six of eight at home in league play, with its only losses coming 66-58 to then-No. 25 Kansas State on Jan. 21 and 64-60 to then-No. 6 Baylor on Feb. 4.
Updated February 27, 2012