Oklahoma St.-Kansas Preview
The second-ranked Jayhawks look to solidify their NCAA seeding when they face the Cowboys in the conference tournament quarterfinals in Kansas City on Thursday.
Kansas (29-2) secured its seventh straight Big 12 regular-season title and the top seed for the conference tourney with a 70-66 win at then-No. 22 Missouri on Saturday.
The Jayhawks enter this tournament, which they won last season for the fourth time in six years, riding a five-game winning streak. They seem poised to land a No. 1 seed for the NCAAs.
"I know it's not the most important thing, from our standpoint, as the NCAA tournament," coach Bill Self said of the Big 12 tourney.
Although Self's primary focus is winning a national championship, he would certainly like to capture another conference tournament title.
"Anytime you play you might as well play to win," said Self, the Big 12 coach of the year. "We are playing in Kansas City against rivals that would like nothing more than to beat us to enhance their situation. Our goal is to go win the tournament.
"The biggest thing for us going into the NCAA tournament is that we would like to get a little bit better, play against quality competition and certainly have to grind out some games."
The Jayhawks, 13-1 in Big 12 tournament openers, didn't need a gritty effort against Oklahoma State (19-12) at Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 21.
Kansas hit eight of its first 10 shots and jumped out to a 24-point halftime lead en route to a 92-65 win, its most lopsided conference victory of the season. Big 12 player of the year Marcus Morris had 27 points, while twin brother Markieff and Elijah Johnson added 15 apiece.
Oklahoma State's Marshall Moses, who averages a team-high 14.7 points, scored 27 and shot 8 of 11. The rest of the Cowboys starters, though, combined for 22 points and went 6 of 23 from the field.
"We weren't too happy when we left Lawrence last time," Oklahoma State's Keiton Page said after a 53-52 victory over Nebraska in a first-round game Wednesday.
The Cowboys fortunately won't have to travel to Allen Fieldhouse again, but the Jayhawks will likely have plenty of support at the nearby Sprint Center, where they're 10-2 since it opened in 2007.
"We already have the best fans in the country and they're all going to be there," said Marcus Morris, who averages a team-best 17.3 points. "The fan support is like a sixth man at times, so that's definitely the best thing."
The ninth-seeded Cowboys won for the first time in 10 games away from campus Wednesday.
Page finished with a team-high 16 points and hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, putting the Cowboys ahead by two after they squandered a nine-point halftime lead.
Moses finished with 10 points for the Cowboys, losers of five of seven to the Jayhawks.
"Kansas is probably the best team in America," Moses said. "In order to have a chance against them, we all have to be ready to play and give our best effort for 40 minutes."