Grabbing the headlines in basketball has come naturally to the Kansas Jayhawks over the years. So pardon the KU partisans if they seem a bit ho-hum about their team winning – er, sharing – its ninth consecutive conference hoops championship. While the basketball regular season was drawing to a close over the weekend on a down note for a Kansas fan base not used to losing in the hardwood, a couple of other Jayhawk athletic teams were basking in the spotlight of the winner’s circle following a victorious weekend.
For coaches Bill Self of Kansas and Bruce Weber of Kansas State, their day on Saturday ended in the same way it began, with the Jayhawks and Wildcats tied for the lead in the conference standings. Both teams ended their regular season losing on the road, thus resulting in each team gaining an equal share of the conference crown in basketball.
For Kansas, it was an unprecedented ninth straight Big 12 basketball championship. Hardly something to take lightly, but when you get blown out by 23 points in your regular-season finale by a Baylor team that had lost five of its previous six games before Saturday, it makes it extremely tough emotionally to feel worthy.
K-State’s Weber was so disappointed after losing to Oklahoma State on Saturday that he didn’t even know his team had earned a share of the conference title until his athletic director, John Currie, called him on the phone Saturday evening to congratulate the Wildcat head coach.
You can bet that the players and fans of Kansas State are elated beyond imagination, regardless of how it came about. After all, only one other time in the 17-year history of the Big 12 has a school won both the football and basketball championships in the same school year (Texas in 2005-06). It also was Kansas State’s first conference championship in basketball – shared or outright – since 1977. Easy to understand why the excitement level in Manhattan was at a higher pitch than it was for the same result 70 miles east in Lawrence.
In reality, Jayhawk fans should be counting their blessings, because Kansas State came much closer than Kansas did to winning its game on Saturday. Were it not for a late-game surge by Oklahoma State, greatly aided by the Cowboys’ making 15 of their final 17 free-throw attempts, we would be writing about a much different ending to the Big 12 basketball race.
Kansas’ fate was sealed very early in its loss to Baylor. The Jayhawks were never really in their game, practically from the opening minutes. K-State, on the other hand, was in a position to win right down to the end against a much better team than the one the Jayhawks had to conted with in the final regular-season game.
But all of that is backdrop to the real point of this article, which is to recognize the national achievement of the Kansas women’s track and field squad, which captured second place for the second consecutive year at the NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas over the weekend, as well as the early success also being enjoyed by KU on the baseball diamond.
The Jayhawk women’s indoor track and field team was led by Andrea Geubelle, who was the individual champion in both the triple jump and the long jump. Geubelle is just the fourth woman to win both field events in the same year.
Kansas pole vaulter Natalie Bartnovskaya also won her event with a school-record vault of 14 feet, 7 1/4 inches.
Oregon won the women’s team title for the fourth consecutive year. The Iowa State women were the second highest finisher out of the Big 12 on the women’s side, coming in ninth overall. Texas Tech came in fifth in the men’s division. Oklahoma State was the only other Big 12 school to finish in the top 10 among the men, with an eighth-place finish.
The Kansas baseball team, which finished seventh in the conference a year ago, finds itself in third place in the league standings after a four-game sweep of Niagra over the weekend. The Jayhawks, who started out the season spliting its first six games, have now won seven of their last nine to raise their record to 10-5, just two games behind conference-leading Oklahoma. The Jayhawks begin the Big 12 portion of their schedule this weekend with three games at TCU, picked by some experts to win the league title in their first year in the conference.
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