Jayhawk Insider: Off to a strong start
By Adam Sullivan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The faces have changed, opponents have varied, different cities and venues, but the “streak” has continued. With a 70-63 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night, the Jayhawks extended its streak of conference opening wins to 28-straight seasons.
The streak originated in the 1991-92 season as Kansas defeated Missouri to open the Big Eight slate. The wins span two head coaches as former KU coach Roy Williams holds 12 of the 28 while current Kansas head coach Bill Self has 16-straight wins.
Starting 1-0 may not seem that important, however during the 28-year span, Kansas has claimed 22 conference championships including 14-straight Big 12 titles. While non-conference games are important, the Kansas players noted a difference in the atmosphere of a conference game.
“I thought it was amped up by the fans, the fans brought the energy,” said KU redshirt-junior Dedric Lawson. “We got into a slow start and they got us going with the energy and we took control of the game from there.”
For Kansas, the recipe over the years hasn’t changed. Win the conference opener and protect home court. With the win on Wednesday, 11 of the 28 conference opening wins have been at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Coach Self definitely said, ‘Take care of (our) home court’ and (that) many people come here and don’t win in Allen Fieldhouse,” said Lawson. “We’re going to do a great job of that this year and try to win every game at home and go on the road and steal some (wins too).”
Though veteran teams tend to control the Big 12, Kansas saw six Jayhawks make their conference debut on Wednesday.
Devon Dotson led the Jayhawks in scoring for the first time in his young career, scoring 16 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals. Grimes scored in double-figures for the second-straight outing with his 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Lawson tallied his 45-career double-double, pulling down a season-high 15 rebounds along with 13 points. Lagerald Vick was the fourth Jayhawk in double-figures, adding 12 points, nine of which came in the first half.
“I didn’t think we played particularly well except for the last 17 minutes of the first half,” Kansas head coach Bill Self explained. “I thought we played really well, and played pretty smart. Defensively, I thought we were really in tune. I thought Devon and Quentin, if you’re going to get 30 points out of those two little guys every night, you can take that and go to the house,” Self stated. “I thought those guys played well.”
With its first Big 12 victory out of the way, Kansas will look to improve its conference record to 2-0 on Saturday with a road trip to Iowa State. During the streak of 28-consecutive conference opening wins, the Jayhawks have been able to use that momentum to start conference play 2-0 23 times including 13 times during the first 15 seasons of the Bill Self era.
Winning in Ames is always a challenge and coach Self believes this year will be no different.
“You can make a case that Iowa State has had as good a preseason as anybody (in the league)” Self said. “They’re back to being healthy and Steve (Prohm) has done a great job of winning some games that were hard games. Now they have their full complement of guys and it will be a great game and atmosphere (in Ames, at Hilton Coliseum). We have to all get on the same page on some things.”
Kansas plays its first Big 12 road game of the season at Iowa State on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 4 p.m., on ESPN2. Kansas is 181-64 all-time against Iowa State, including a 70-39 advantage in Ames and a 26-21 edge in Hilton Coliseum. The Jayhawks have won the last two clashes with the Cyclones in Hilton.
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