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Kansas coach reminds team of freefall

POSTED March 18, 2011 12:02 a.m.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Brady Morningstar has heard about Northern Iowa for a year now.
The Kansas senior has been reminded time and again about last season’s second-round NCAA tournament loss to the Panthers and the sharp-shooting Ali Farokhmanesh. He’s heard about it from friends, family, and most of all on the road at places like Missouri and Kansas State.
Morningstar and the rest of the Jayhawks were reminded one final time on the eve of this year’s tournament, when the coaching staff put a story about it in each of their lockers.
“It’s a little reminder of if you don’t show up, you’re going to go home,” Morningstar said. “No one wants that. No one likes that feeling.
“I felt the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” he said, “so I’m just trying to make sure that doesn’t happen this year.”
The top-seeded Jayhawks (32-2) open against Boston University on Friday. They do so with a dominating regular season behind them and as President Barack Obama’s pick to win it all.
Of course, that was the case last season as well, which is why KU coach Bill Self brought up last season’s disaster one more time.
“It wasn’t anything to bring back negative thoughts as much as it was a reminder of what can happen this year if you’re off just a little bit,” Self said. “I hope our guys get that.”
The No. 16 seed Terriers (21-13) are also drawing inspiration from Northern Iowa’s win last season, only from Cinderella’s perspective. After falling to 10-13 following a loss a New Hampshire on Jan. 29, Boston won 11 straight games, captured the America East Conference title, and now believes it can compete with the Jayhawks.
Led by senior John Holland’s 19.2 points per game, the Terriers remember Kansas’ stunning tournament loss from last season — obviously with no idea they’d have a chance at the same kind of moment for a school that hadn’t reached the tournament since 2002.
“If you’re going to beat anybody, it takes belief,” Holland said. “I feel like we believe in each other. I think if you’re going to do anything, even winning a game in this tournament, you have to have that belief in one another that you can win.
“If anything, that’s what I took from that game.”
Boston lost seven of eight games from late December through early January, beginning with a 91-57 defeat at Kentucky on Dec. 30. The Terriers then won three in a row before losing three of five, culminating with their loss at New Hampshire.
Everything changed after that, Boston coach Patrick Chambers said. The Terriers didn’t lose in February and March, winning the conference championship 56-54 over Stony Brook.
“They started to trust me,” Chambers said. “They started to trust one another. The locker room changed, and I really think these kids care about one another.”
Self is counting on the same trust from the Jayhawks after leaving the story from last year’s loss in their lockers. Senior guard Mario Little said the message was received, even if most of the clippings ended up in the trash.
“I kind of got flashbacks,” Little said.
Self has noticed this year’s team is looser on the court than last year. He hopes that carries over into the tournament as Kansas looks to advance to the round of eight for the first time since winning the championship in 2008.
“We had a fabulous record (last year), but I didn’t feel like we let it go like I hope this team does,” Self said. “Of course, it remains to be seen if we do, but certainly I hope we’re much more aggressive the first weekend than what we were last year.”


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