Kansas takes over top spot in rankings

Austin Laymance

Since falling for the first time this season on Jan. 22 at home against Texas — a loss that broke Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak — the Jayhawks have been on a tear. Bill Self’s squad claimed the top spot Monday in both the AP and ESPN polls.

But the Jayhawks won’t be perched at the top of the college basketball world for long. Kansas’ 84-68 loss to unranked rival Kansas State Monday night will almost certainly drop KU from the top spot in next week’s polls.

Prior to Monday’s loss, Kansas had won six in a row and rediscovered its scoring touch after the Longhorns held the nation’s No. 6 offense to just 63 points when the teams met in January. During that stretch Kansas put up over 90 points per contest and won by an average of 21 points. But the Jayhawks defense was also responsible for KU’s success—limiting opponents to only 66 points in four of the past seven outings.

Junior forward Marcus Morris received Big 12 Player of the Week honors Monday after averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds last week in victories over Missouri and Iowa State at home. Morris, the conference’s leader in field goal percentage, shot 66.7 percent from the field in the two wins and recorded his fifth double-double of the season.

<strong>Aggies pull out close wins</strong>

Texas A&M needed overtime to down Colorado on the road in Boulder on Thursday, then the Aggies went down to the wire Saturday against Texas Tech in Lubbock for their second-straight win to move into third place in the Big 12, behind Texas and Kansas. The Aggies won both games by only three points but showed the grit needed to get back on the winning track after dropping three games in a row.

“You have to be good and you have to be lucky, and we were a little bit of both,” said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “We know we are going to be in a lot of close games.”

The Aggies will need a lot more of both if they hope to catch the rival Longhorns at the top of the conference, but they still had reason to celebrate Saturday. With the 70-67 victory over the Red Raiders, Turgeon tied Bob Rogers for second on the Aggies’ all-time victory list with 92. He will have a chance for the record Wednesday when Iowa State invades College Station, but it won’t come easy for Turgeon as his team has lost their last two at home, including a 20-point thrashing by Texas on Jan. 19.

<strong>Cyclones can’t buy a win</strong>

It’s been a rough start to 2011 for Iowa State. The Cyclones lost their sixth-straight game Saturday against Kansas and have just two wins since the New Year. ISU has been the victim of a few bad breaks — it has lost two games in overtime and four of its past eight losses have been by six or less points, including a pair of one-point defeats.

“You have to find a way to make the big play down the stretch, a couple games we win if we find a way to get a defensive rebound with under two minutes to play,” said head coach Fred Hoiberg. “When you have a six- or an eight-point lead, you’ve got to find a way to make those plays to allow your team win the game.”

The Cyclones will have a tough task ending their losing skid. ISU has an unfavorable schedule ahead featuring three-straight games against ranked opponents, starting with a road matchup against No. 21 Texas A&M on Wednesday.