KANSAS CITY, Mo. - No Derrick Roland. No Dash Harris. And for a long time it seemed like no problem for No. 23 Texas A&M as the Aggies stifled No. 1 Kansas for an entire half, taking a 38-35 lead into halftime.
But the Aggies couldn't do it without Donald Sloan who picked up two quick fouls, to put him into foul trouble with three and force him to the bench, after A&M pushed the lead out to seven to start the second half. Without Sloan in the lineup the Jayhawks went on 9-3 run to cut the Aggie lead to one, and more importantly it woke up Kansas senior guard Sherron Collins who fueled Kansas to the 79-66 win and a spot in Saturday's Big 12 championship game.
"The boxout foul was a bad foul. When you get a cheap one like that, which he did, leads to the third. We still had command of the game and I didn't want (Sloan) to pick up his fourth," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "He didn't sit there very long because we started to panic a little bit, which we don't do. But we did today. I think if we could've gotten to the eight-minute mark we were good. But his third foul was big. It was really big."
Collins would torch A&M for 26 points and six assists with just one turnover in the Big 12 semifinal matchup just a month after Collins went 2-9 from the field for seven points and one assist with five turnovers against A&M in the regular season in College Station.
With Kansas looking frustrated after A&M came out firing at the beginning of the second half, Collins took control of his teammates and the game.
"Sherron put us on his back to keep us in contact," said Kansas head coach Bill Self. "Then the last 12, 14 minutes everybody played great."
With Collins running a rejuvenated Jayhawk offense, Kansas started firing on all cylinders. A&M, however, would continue to stay ahead until the 9:31 mark when a layup from Markieff Morris would give Kansas its first lead since the 6:16 mark in the first half.
A&M would take the lead back on the next possession on a jumper from Sloan, but that would be the Aggies' last field goal until Sloan hit a 3-pointer over eight minutes later. The offensive draught spurred a 16-0 KU run that effectively ended the game.
"KU played excellent defense, but I touched the ball to say the least. I was actually trying to get others guys the shot - B.J. and Khris," Sloan said. "I was trying to give other guys the opportunity to make plays because I did feel like KU was keying in on me while they were in that zone, and we had great opportunities all night."
A&M freshman Khris Middleton scored 14 points while B.J. Holmes scored 12 with four assists and three steals. Senior forward Bryan Davis had nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals in what otherwise would have been a fantastic game, but Davis went scoreless in 30 minutes of playing time.
A&M sophomore forward David Loubeau, who was in early foul trouble, had nine points, two rebounds and one steal as Kansas routinely doubled A&M's post.
"I've got a lot of confidence in this group. Playing the No. 1 team in the country in this kind of environment gives me confidence, without your starting point guard," Turgeon said. "Hopefully we can get Dash (Harris) healthy. We can get better between now and next week whenever we play."
The Aggies are a lock for an NCAA at-large bid and will find out Sunday during the NCAA Selection Show at 5 p.m. where and who they will play.