Xavier Henry Drops Career-High 31 Points on Explorers

Dec. 12, 2009

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With No. 1 Kansas leading La Salle by more than 20 points with a little less than five minutes remaining, KU Coach Bill Self turned freshman guard Xavier Henry loose.

Henry had already scored 27 points. He was already four of five from the three-point line. But with the game already decided, Self had a simple message for his heralded freshman: beat your defender and get to the rim.

“Coach was just like ‘take them’ so I kept going to the hole and scoring easy layups,” Henry said. “As soon as he said take them, that was all I needed to hear.”

During an afternoon in which senior guard Sherron Collins had perhaps his worst statistical performance in a Kansas uniform, Henry picked up the offensive slack without disrupting the Jayhawks’ balance on offense. Henry finished with 31 points on 10 of 15 shooting, a career-high scoring performance that he described simply as “alright.”

Self was a little more glowing in his description of Henry’s day. He said he was especially pleased with the way the Jayhawks picked up the slack for Collins, who made only one of 12 attempts and scored five points.

Of course, Henry was at the center of that effort, bettering his previous career high of 27 points set against Hofstra on November 13 by four.

“X just scored so easily,” Self said. “Thirty-one points on 15 shots is pretty good, especially for a freshman. He didn’t take bad looks and he shared the ball also. I thought he played great.”

Despite cruising to a 25-point victory and a quick 7-2 lead fueled by two Cole Aldrich dunks and a Henry three-pointer, Kansas struggled to separate itself from LaSalle early in the first half. The Explorers trailed by one at 21-20 with just over 10 minutes left before the Jayhawks embarked on a 21-7 run to go into halftime with a 42-27 lead.

Henry scored 10 points in the first half, before exploding for 17 in a second period in which he made all four of his three-pointers and got to the free-throw line nine times. Self was impressed by Henry’s scoring ability, but he said the freshman’s ability to move the ball and share with his teammates would be even more important as the season continues.

For his part, Henry said he is just as happy to feed the ball into the post to Aldrich and the Morris twins as he is to knock down open three-pointers and power his way into the paint.

“I just play within what our team does,” Henry said. “We have great big men, and its easy points when we throw it inside so I just try to find them inside. Then I just pick my spots.”

So far Henry has picked his spots well. Even with Collins’ off day from the field, five Jayhawks scored better than nine points led by Henry’s 31 and Aldrich’s 19 points.

The scary thing is that nobody, not even Henry or Self, know what Henry’s ceiling can be. Asked what he can do when he plays better than just “alright,” Henry searched for an answer.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It will be a good day though.”