Kansas will go for 63rd straight home win

Only at a place like Allen Fieldhouse would they turn the simple

act of players running onto the court into a cherished team

tradition.

Emerging from their locker room in the 55-year-old basketball

showplace, coaches and players trot past exultant fans, through a

short tunnel and then emerge on the floor to pulsating music,

foot-stomping racket and the booming cheers of 16,300 adoring fans.

Above, a huge scoreboard shows video of great plays and storied

players from the Jayhawks’ hallowed past, from Wilt Chamberlain to

Danny Manning to the miracle shot that sent the 2008 NCAA

championship game into overtime.

The whole scene is so intimidating that Baylor coach Scott Drew

once took his players back into the visitors locker room until the

Jayhawks and their fans were done with their earsplitting love

fest.

No one knows if Texas A&M-Corpus Christi coach Perry Clark

will similarly shield his players on Tuesday night.

Perhaps he should.

If the No. 7 Jayhawks (3-0) get past the Islanders, they will

notch consecutive home victory No. 63, setting a school record and

adding one more bit of history to a beloved old building where

tradition already seeps from the rafters.

”I’m proud of the streak. I think we all are,” said coach Bill

Self. ”I’d rather win six in a row in the NCAA tournament than 63

in a row at home. But yes, the streak is something to be proud of.

The building has been a big part of it. But I’ve always said the

best home courts in America are the ones that have the best players

playing in them.”

In seven-plus seasons as the Jayhawks’ head coach, Self’s had a

multitude of good players. He’s an almost unbelievable 116-6 in

what generations of Kansans have called, with reverence, ”the

fieldhouse.”

He hasn’t lost a home game since Texas A&M’s All-Big 12

guard Acie Law hit a dramatic 3-pointer in the final seconds for a

69-66 victory on Feb. 3, 2007. Four days later, the Jayhawks beat

Kansas State 97-70 and launched what will culminate on Tuesday,

barring an upset, with a team-record 63 home wins in a row.

Several former players, including many who took part in the

62-game home streak from 1994-98, will be in the crowd.

”It’s a huge deal. We want to win, especially for all of the

players that came before us,” said sophomore forward Thomas

Robinson. ”To tie it is a big thing, but to be the team that broke

it is a big deal for us. We want to be known as the team that broke

the streak. That’s a lot of games to win at home, especially with

the competition that we have every year.”

The Jayhawks have sold out 150 straight games. They have led

their conference in attendance the past 24 years.

”You can ask guys who played here long before I got here, and

they’ll tell you one of the biggest thrills is running out of the

tunnel,” said Self. ”Just entering the court has become a big

deal here. There could be snow, hail, sleet, wind, cold. But almost

every time you run through that tunnel, there’s 16,000-plus to

greet you, saying, in effect, ‘Hey guys, where you been? We missed

you.’

”I don’t think players get that at very many places.”

Seated close to the floor, fans put up a noise that can be

deafening in every sense of the word.

”Sometimes it gets so loud,” former Kansas guard Ryan

Robertson once said, ”you can’t feel your feet hit the

floor.”

Not every win during the streak has been a runaway. There was a

76-72 overtime squeaker against Arizona, a 5-point win over Cornell

and a 66-61 scare against Colorado, to name a few.

”There have been numerous games where we could have easily gone

the other way,” said Self. ”I really think the fieldhouse and the

fans – things that were external from the players – had a lot to do

with giving us the energy to pull those games out.”

Lesser players would never have won 62 in a row in any

building.

Still, it’s a special place.

”I don’t know – there’s just something about it,” said senior

guard Tyrel Reed. ”When we come to the fieldhouse, I don’t feel

like we can be beat. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. I don’t

care if it’s an NBA team, we’d come out here and play hard.”

Senior guard Mario Little recalls the first time he ran through

the tunnel.

”There were all these people screaming, and for me? I didn’t

really get it. But I get it now. It’s just a different feeling to

run out of the tunnel and all the fans are chanting your name and

rooting you on. It’s a different feeling.”