Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Top 25: Kansas clinches Big 12

By The Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas - Keith Langford wanted to be at his best in front of his mother. Langford scored 20 points as No. 6 Kansas beat Texas Tech 65-56 Monday night, clinching at least a tie for the Big 12 title.

"It was all about my mother being in the stands," said Langford, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. "She drove five hours to get here. And the Big 12 championship was on the line. I'm greedy. I want another ring."

The Jayhawks (23-6, 13-2) can clinch their second straight outright conference title with a win at Missouri on Sunday.

Kansas led most of the way and built a 13-point early in the second half behind Langford.

"He hasn't been as offensive-minded as he was tonight," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "Keith is the third option for us, and it's extremely important for him to be involved for us.

Tech narrowed the margin to 59-53 with 5:01 remaining in the game. But Kansas' Aaron Miles scored back-to-back baskets - one off his steal and ensuing easy layup - to stretch the lead back to 10 at the 4:21 mark.

The Red Raiders (16-10, 6-9) scored only three points in the final five minutes.

"We just kind of had to play from behind from the beginning," Tech coach Bob Knight said. "We're a different team. We're not as good a team as we were last year."

Nick Collison added 13 points and seven rebounds for Kansas, and Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles scored 10 points apiece. The Jayhawks have won of 10 of their last 11 games.

"This was a tough one for us," Williams said. "We have a great deal of respect for Texas Tech, their players and particularly their coach. We knew we needed to play well offensively and we moved the ball well. We didn't take many bad shots."

When Hinrich hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 7:48 remaining to go ahead 57-47, Knight saw his team's chances to come back grow slim. Tech had closed the margin to seven.

It was "the kind of shot that really sticks a pin in your balloon," Knight said.

Andre Emmett, the league's leading scorer coming into the game with a 22-point average, scored 16 points and Kasib Powell added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Raiders.

"We have a poster in the locker room that says 'Victory goes to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes,"' Emmett said. "Tonight, Kansas made fewer mistakes than we did."

Kansas led 39-28 at halftime.

The Jayhawks used a 8-2 run to jump out to an early 12-6 lead while holding held Tech without a field goal for about five minutes. Ronald Ross ended the drought when he got a layup with 12:06 remaining in the half.

Kansas dominated inside, scoring 24 of its first-half points in the paint.

No. 19 Creighton 86, Wichita St. 60

OMAHA, Neb. - Creighton's Larry House saved his best for his last game at the Civic Auditorium.

House scored a career-high 28 points in 22 minutes Monday night as the 19th-ranked Bluejays beat Wichita State 86-60.

House had his big night in front of his mother and stepfather, Joyce and Stephen Cooley, who traveled from Milwaukee for Creighton's Senior Night festivities.

"We need his mom and stepdad at all our games," Creighton coach Dana Altman said. "Heck, we would have moved them to Omaha if we knew he was going to play like that."

Creighton (26-4, 15-3 Missouri Valley Conference) outscored the Shockers 26-8 in the first eight minutes of the second half to put the game away.

Paul Miller had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead Wichita State (17-10, 12-6).

House, who shot 11-of-16 from the floor, scored his final points on a short jumper with 6:24 left. His legs got tangled in traffic after the basket, and he left with a twisted ankle.

He hobbled to the bench, to chants of "Lar-ry! Lar-ry!" from the fans who showed up to honor House and fellow seniors Kyle Korver and DeAnthony Bowden.

"They love me," House said of the fans, "and I love them."

The Bluejays finished 17-0 in their last season at Civic Auditorium. Next season they'll move nine blocks away to a new downtown arena that is under construction. This is the third time in the program's 85-year history that Creighton has gone unbeaten at home.

The Shockers committed 25 turnovers in the game, compared with 10 for Creighton, and shot just 32.1 percent.

"We weren't very good," Shockers coach Mark Turgeon said. "I'm not sure we could have beaten them if we were great. I'm not sure the Cleveland Cavaliers could have come in here and beat Creighton tonight the way they were playing. . . We had a lot of unforced turnovers and we were just playing scared."

Both teams struggled at the start, however, with each missing nine of its first 10 shots. Kyle Korver, who had 13 points, barely struck iron with his first 3-point attempt, and he put up an airball on his second.

Korver made the third, though, and the Bluejays went on a 17-6 run to take a 21-10 lead.

Miller scored six straight points to pull the Shockers to 26-22 late in the first half. But Tyler McKinney hit a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line, Nate Funk made a short shot and Grimes made a bank shot underneath to help the Bluejays stretch the lead to 34-24 at halftime.

The Bluejays held Wichita State without a field goal for first four minutes of the second half. Jamar Howard's dunk ended the Shockers' dry spell, but by then Creighton was leading 41-27.

"We played with a lot of energy, and we flew around," Altman said. "We got a little juice back tonight, and hopefully we'll take that to the tournament."

The Bluejays are seeded No. 2 behind regular-season champion Southern Illinois in this weekend's Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis.

Creighton started playing some of its home games at the 9,377-seat Civic Auditorium in 1955. The arena has been the Bluejays' permanent home since 1961. They finished 432-155 at the Civic, including 100-28 under Altman.

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