No. 2 Kansas' success without Simien no surprise


Monday, January 10th 2005, 1:00 pm
By: News On 6


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The success of No. 2 Kansas without star forward Wayne Simien comes as no surprise to the other coaches in the Big 12 Conference.

``They've done a great job of holding the fort until Wayne gets back,'' Nebraska coach Barry Collier said Monday during the coaches' weekly conference call. ``Each time I watch them, I've been more impressed _ even when Wayne was in there. And that continues, even now.''

Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team beat then-No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday in the Jayhawks' first road game, has not said when Simien will return after undergoing surgery on his left thumb. The preseason All-American is expected to miss Wednesday's game at Iowa State.

In his absence, the rest of the Jayhawks _ led by point guard Aaron Miles and swingman Keith Langford, both veterans of two Final Fours _ have taken turns picking up the slack. Kansas is 4-0 without Simien, with victories over two Top 10 teams.

``It kind of starts with guys like Miles and Langford,'' Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. ``Those guys see that as an opportunity to show that their team is a team.

``If it's (the loss of a star) for a month as opposed to three months, teams can raise their level,'' Snyder said. ``I think that's what you've seen Kansas do.''

That was especially true on Sunday, when the play of Kansas' young front line offset the Jayhawks' struggles outside.

``We've kind of been piecing it together, to be honest,'' Self said. ``But now guys should be feeling that we can do it against anybody if we give great effort and consistent effort.''

That confidence, Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said, will make the Jayhawks even tougher.

``When they get Simien back, they're going to be dynamite,'' Sutton said.

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SUTTON'S MILESTONE: If his sixth-ranked Cowboys beat Missouri on Tuesday in Stillwater, Okla., Sutton will match former Oklahoma State coach Henry Iba with his 767th victory _ seventh on the NCAA Division I career list.

``Mr. Iba'' led the school _ then Oklahoma A&M _ to NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946. Sutton played for him from 1955 to 1958 and was a graduate assistant under him in the 1958-59 season.

``I've had mixed feelings about tying Mr. Iba's record or passing it,'' Sutton said. ``If we're fortunate enough to win, I'm going to look up to him, point to heaven and say, 'Thank you, Mr. Iba. You're a big part of this.'''

Self, who also played at Oklahoma State and was an assistant there for seven seasons _ three under Sutton _ said the approaching milestone will be an occasion to celebrate both coaches' achievements.

``People certainly should be excited when he ties it, because that pays tribute to both men,'' Self said. ``They should be ecstatic when he breaks it.''

All that emotion won't make things easier for Missouri, Snyder said.

``I can't see how it could be harder than they make it by being who they are,'' he said, ``but going for Mr. Iba's record might be one way.''

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NO BREAK FOR AGGIES: After flirting with an upset at Kansas in its Big 12 opener before losing 65-60, surprising Texas A&M will face its second Top 10 opponent in as many games when the Aggies host No. 10 Texas on Wednesday.

That's a big obstacle for a team trying to break an 18-game losing streak in conference play.

``You don't ever want to go into a season trying to win a conference game,'' first-year coach Billy Gillespie said, emphasizing the singular. ``But that's what we have to do.''

But at 11-1, the Aggies have the attention _ and respect _ of Texas coach Rick Barnes.

``I saw them play the other night against Kansas, and I thought they played really hard defensively and were aggressive at both ends of the court,'' Barnes said. ``Anyone who knows Billy knows that's his personality. I think it's great for A&M _ they're excited with Billy being there _ and it's great for our league.''

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TIME TO RECUPERATE: Senegalese center Mamadou Diene, who missed the first semester at Baylor because he was battling malaria in his home country, will likely take a redshirt season to adjust to his class schedule and continue his recovery.

``Coming off malaria, I'm sure his strength in a lot of areas is down,'' coach Scott Drew said.

The 7-foot freshman is listed at 215 pounds, but Drew said he wasn't sure how much weight Diene had lost over the course of his illness.

``When he gets here, we'll see all that stuff,'' Drew said. ``After a month of good, healthy American food, he'll put on the weight.''