No. 1 Kansas 84, California 69
Occasionally out of control and his confidence wavering with each passing game, Tyshawn Taylor found himself on the bench behind a freshman.
Sure, it hurt. It also served as motivation and Taylor has become better for it.
Taylor played his fourth straight solid game since being benched and Sherron Collins keyed a late surge to finish with 17 points, helping No. 1 Kansas overcome a rare quiet game from its bench to beat California 84-69 on Tuesday night.
``He looked confident today,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said of Taylor.
It wasn't that way just a few weeks ago.
A starter for 33 games as a freshman last season, Taylor was the Jayhawks' No. 1 point guard for the first seven games this season. Then he had a seven-turnover game against Memphis, followed by a few erratic performances.
Wanting to get a spark and give Taylor time to gather himself, Self replaced him in the starting lineup with freshman Elijah Johnson for the next two games.
Taylor accepted the benching and used it as a chance to get better. He had two strong games coming off the bench to regain his starting spot and had 13 points, seven assists and one turnover against Cal. The past four games, Taylor has 24 assists and two turnovers.
``I think I'm just playing a little bit smarter,'' Taylor said. ``I'm not forcing up as much stuff and trying to be aggressive while playing slow at the same time.''
One of the deepest teams in the country, Kansas (11-0) for once relied heavily on its starters. Marcus Morris had 14 points, Xavier Henry 12 and Cole Aldrich fought through foul trouble to score 10 with his 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The bench, which had been averaging 29.3 points per game, combined for 18 points, with five of those coming in the closing minutes after the game was out of reach.
No matter. Kansas made 19 of 26 shots in the second half, shot 55 percent overall and used a 15-3 run to blow open a tight game and extend the nation's longest home winning streak to 49 games.
``They have a lot of people and you'd hard pressed to say who is there star,'' Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. ``Who is their best player? Gee, they have about eight of them.''
The Bears kept it close - at least for a little while.
Well-rested after nearly two weeks off, Cal (6-4) relied on its perimeter shooting to give Kansas its toughest home game of the season. Patrick Christopher hit an array of step-back shots to finish with 21 points, Jamal Boykin banged his way to 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Jerome Randle added 16 points.
The Bears just didn't have an answer when Kansas made its run, dropping to 2-24 all-time against No. 1 teams.
``We reacted well to their first big run,'' Boykin said. ``We came out aggressive and with the right frame of mind, but when they made their surge, (it was) our reaction that hurt us.''
After a series of blowouts, Kansas had its first real home test of the season on Saturday, pulling out an uneven 11-point win over Michigan.
Keeping up with Cal's athletic shooters was even tougher.
Coming off solid wins over Iowa State and Pacific, the Bears had a 12-day break that allowed them to heal after an early season filled with injuries and illnesses. Ready instead of rusty, Cal gave the nation's No. 1 team all it could handle, the quick-shooting trio of Theo Robertson, Christopher and Randle knocking down jumpers every time the Jayhawks tried to pull away.
Kansas forced 7-foot-3 Cal center Max Zhang to the bench with two fouls in the first 55 seconds and got plenty of good looks in the early going. The Jayhawks just couldn't make anything, opening the game 3 for 12 from the field before finally zeroing in.
Even when Kansas started hitting shots, Cal was able to keep up, using its quickness to get shots off against the bigger Jayhawks. Robertson, Christopher and Randle did most of the damage, hitting one fadeaway after another in combining for 31 of the Bears' 39 first-half points.
Finally, after more back and forth to start the second half, Kansas, as it also seems to do, went on the run Cal couldn't answer for its second straight gritty win.
``This definitely was a game for us to come out and make a statement,'' Taylor said. ``This is why we're No. 1 - we can play the best and beat them.''