If Kansas is going to win a second straight Big 12 tournament championship, it must play better than in its opener.
The second-ranked and top-seeded Jayhawks look to get back on track while trying to continue their dominance over Colorado in a semifinal matchup Friday night in Kansas City, Mo.Kansas' pursuit of a record eighth tournament title got off to a shaky start with Thursday's 63-62 win over Oklahoma State.The Jayhawks (30-2) shot 35.9 percent, mostly firing from the perimeter as the overachieving Cowboys did a solid job of preventing twins Marcus and Markieff Morris from taking over in the paint. Kansas, 5 of 25 from 3-point range, finally went ahead for good on Mario Little's three-point play with 71 seconds left."We're fortunate," said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team has it sights on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. "We'll have to play a lot better to be successful (Friday). There's no question about that. "If we play like we did (Thursday), we'll go home sad."Though the Jayhawks have won 17 in a row over fifth-seeded Colorado since losing 60-59 in Boulder on Jan. 22, 2003, the Buffaloes (21-12) are making the most of their final Big 12 tournament before heading to the Pac-10 next season.After barely getting by Iowa State in Wednesday's first round, Colorado beat No. 19 Kansas State for the third time this season, 87-75 on Thursday.The Buffaloes' first Big 12 tournament quarterfinal victory might have been enough to secure the school's first NCAA tournament berth since 2003."We beat a good team," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "We're not backing into this thing. I try not to talk about things I don't have control over. But this is our sixth top-50 RPI win of the season. I don't know how many bubble teams have six."A victory over Kansas would likely secure a berth, but Boyle knows beating the Jayhawks is a daunting task."We know what Kansas is going to try to do now. It's our challenge to go out there and try to limit them from doing it," Boyle said. "And they present a heck of a challenge. I hope they shoot from the perimeter like they did (Thursday)."Kansas had little trouble making shots while winning both meetings with the Buffaloes this season, converting at 51.7 percent and averaging 85.0 points.Markieff Morris, who was held to 10 points and five rebounds Thursday, had 26 and 15 in an 89-63 home win over Colorado on Feb. 19. Marcus Morris had 16 points with nine boards in that contest, and scored 15 in an 82-78 win at Colorado on Jan. 25.Marcus Morris, the Big 12 player of the year, had 16 points and 11 rebounds Thursday.Cory Higgins tallied 28 points and leading scorer Alec Burks added 24 on Thursday as the Buffaloes shot 58.0 percent to snap a four-game skid against ranked opponents.A Kansas City-area native, Burks (20.0 points per game) had 29 points with 15 rebounds against Iowa State. After scoring 25 against Kansas in January, Burks had only 15 at Allen Fieldhouse.Kansas won the teams' only previous tournament meeting, 102-73 in the second round in 2002.