NCAA BK

BURLISON: Collison delivers in Nick of time

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Frank Burlison

 
   
 

LAWRENCE, Kan.

Afterward the 16,300 that regularly jams Allen Fieldhouse were bouncing out of the building Monday night in a state that could only be described as euphoric. And, why not? After all, they had just witnessed the most well played and exciting college basketball game of the season. Well . . . maybe I exaggerate. Then, again I don¿t think many in attendance would disagree. 90, 87. Take three of the 10 best players in the sport, playing for two of the 10 best teams in the country, hook, and drop them in as good an environment for basketball as there is anywhere in the world. And we can only fantasize seeing anything better come the first weekend in April in . ¿This,¿ Kansas coach Roy Williams said afterward in a voice a couple of notches beyond raspy, ¿was one of the best college games I¿ve ever seen.¿ And some would argue that it was even a lot better than that.
  • If, after consecutive losses to Colorado and Arizona that dropped Kansas¿ record to 13-5, the Jayhawks — and a lot of those who follow the sport closely — were doubting just how good they were, those doubts should have been dashed following a Big 12 game in which Kansas overcame a whole lot of obstacles to prevent its first three-game losing streak in nine years.
  • And, if you¿re just now getting into the college basketball mode and weren¿t real clued in as to what kind of team Rick Barnes has in Austin, the Longhorns gave you an eyeful Monday night. Kansas got clocked — to the tune of a 17-point margin — by one potential Final Four team in Saturday afternoon. And Monday night, led by maybe the fastest human being in the world while bouncing a ball, sophomore point guard , and what seemed like a cast of dozens of 6-9, 240-pounders up front, the Longhorns are doing a very nice job of auditioning for , too. Ford, who had the 24 NBA employees on hand shaking their heads and exchanging can-you-believe-what-we-just-saw glances throughout, led his team to a 12-point advantage midway through the first half and a couple of eight-point edges after intermission. The jump shot still isn¿t going to make anyone think ¿Kyle Korver¿ or ¿J.J. Redick¿. But it¿s legitimate enough now that a defender has to at least think about challenging it up to 19 feet away. And if you try to pressure Ford anywhere on the court you better be able to slide those feet pretty quickly. And hope for a lot of help from your four teammates. ¿You want to try to keep him in front of you as much as possible,¿ Williams said afterward, his voice finally recovering. ¿It sounds simple but it¿s not easy to do. No one individual can ever guard .¿ At least not among defenders who aren¿t already making at least the NBA minimum salary, that is. ¿T.J. is so tough,¿ of Kansas said in genuine admiration afterward. ¿He proves that a guy can dominate a game, even at his size.¿ Ford made a pretty convincing argument for National Player of the Year consideration with his 25-point, 10-assist and seven-rebound performance over 36 minutes Monday night. But so did the aforementioned Collison. And, if he hadn¿t, Kansas would have lugged a three-game losing streak with it to Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. The 6-9 Collison scored 24 points, grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds and spent most of his 36 minutes before fouling out with 1:18 to play diving for loose balls or stepping out to help on Ford and then sprinting back into rebounding position. That¿s what you call earning a monthly scholarship check. ¿I don¿t think I¿ve ever seen anyone as relentless under the backboards as Nick was tonight,¿ Williams said. Sure you have, coach. Think ¿Moses Malone¿ or ¿Dennis Rodman.¿ ¿Nick Collison is a great player — he just beat us,¿ Texas forward said after his team had lost only its third game this season, all at the hands of Top 10-caliber competition, by a cumulative 12 points. With sophomore forward possibly returning as soon as the game Saturday, the Jayhawks shouldn¿t always need the kind of performances turned in by senior stars Collison and guard (25 points and four assists) to beat the kind of teams that will block their way to . But it has to be comforting knowing that option is in their back pockets, right? ¿That¿s the best I¿ve seen those guys play since I¿ve been here,¿ sophomore swingman said afterward. ¿They showed that they are lottery (draft picks) type players tonight.¿ And Monday night, against a team that could be waiting for them in , it was a good thing they did. Senior writer Frank Burlison can be reached at his e-mail address, fburlison@foxsports.com.
  • Tagged: Arizona, New Orleans, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas

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