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Monday, February 27, 2017

No. 1 Jayhawks avoid Senior Night scare, beat Oklahoma

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) collides with Oklahoma guard Darrion Strong-Moore (0) on his way to the bucket during the first half, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) collides with Oklahoma guard Darrion Strong-Moore (0) on his way to the bucket during the first half, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse

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No one who walked into Allen Fieldhouse Monday wearing Kansas basketball gear expected the No. 1 Jayhawks to drop their home finale against Oklahoma on Senior Night.

But some doubt definitely crept in before senior point guard Frank Mason III and the Jayhawks closed the second half playing the type of basketball that helped them reach the top ranking in the country hours ahead of their 73-63 victory over the Sooners.

Mason scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the final half, helping his Jayhawks (27-3 overall, 15-2 Big 12) overcome a double-digit deficit against OU (10-19, 4-13).

KU extended its current winning streak to seven games behind the power of a typical Mason night, 11 points and 12 rebounds from star freshman Josh Jackson, eight points and eight boards from senior Landen Lucas and a 4-for-8 3-point shooting night by junior Devonte’ Graham (16 points).

Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:

• The game turned when: Kansas escaped a Senior Night rut late in the second half.

The regular-season home finale didn’t get off to a good start for the nation’s new No. 1 team.

The Jayhawks opened the game 1-for-7 from the floor, with four turnovers. It took nearly 10 minutes for KU to put 10 points on the scoreboard. Even Mason went scoreless for nearly 11 minutes.

Tied at 28 at intermission versus a Sooners team with a losing record, KU’s offense continued trending downward in the second half, as well. Oklahoma built a 12-point lead with just more than 10 minutes to play.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self talks KU seniors, finding offense late vs. OU

Following a long Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self takes questions from the media regarding KU seniors Frank Mason III, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self, and gets into how the Jayhawks recovered offensively down the stretch to top Oklahoma.

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Then Mason, who had no interest in finishing the home portion of his career with a loss, began willing his team toward a victory, as he has done so many times during a spectacular senior campaign.

An old-fashioned three-point play for Mason got the KU offense back on track, and shortly after Lagerald Vick drained his second and third 3-pointers of the night, Jackson flushed a dunk, Lucas scored and OU was officially in trouble.

Lucas spotted Graham in the right corner for a 3-pointer that gave KU a 59-58 lead, and the the game might as well have ended with six minutes still to play. Graham nailed another 3 from the exact same spot the next trip down the floor, Mason followed that up with a lay-in and Oklahoma was toast, with the Jayhawks feeling like themselves and the fans eating it up.

• Offensive highlight: Defying gravity in the way only he can do on this KU team, Jackson again sent the crowd into a frenzy in what figures to be his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, too, before declaring for the NBA Draft this spring.

Creeping behind the OU defense, near the right corner, in front of the Sooners’ bench, Jackson made a break for the hoop, with just more than eight minutes left in the first half.

As Graham set the 6-foot-8 phenom up by floating a pass over the rim, Jackson appeared to walk on air to meet it on the right side of the backboard for the 43rd dunk of his sure-to-be one-and-done season.

Kansas only shot 36.4 percent in the first half. The rare easy basket not only gave the fans a reason to get out of their seats, it tied the game at 18 after KU had fallen behind by as many as seven points.

• Defensive highlight: Serving as a nice reminder of how quickly Graham can move his feet on defense, the junior guard pestered Darrion Strong-Moore at the top of the key, when he saw the Oklahoma junior playing loose with the ball.

Graham pressured his Sooners counterpart into a near turnover by lunging at him, before the OU junior briefly recovered his handle near mid-court. It was then that Graham pounced yet again, this time successfully coming away with the ball.

From there the KU junior had nothing but an empty half-court in front of him and took it strong to the rim, finishing a layup over the retreating Strong-Moore to break a tie, at 26.

Typically, in the first half, the Jayhawks were the ones turning it over. But Graham’s steal allowed Kansas to out-score OU in points off turnovers, 5-4, in the opening 20 minutes — even though the Sooners only gave the ball away eight times, and Kansas lost it on 11 occasions.

• Key stat: Field-goal percentage defense. As poorly as KU played, offensively, the Sooners easily could’ve spoiled the Jayhawks’ Senior Night had Kansas not scrapped on defense, looking far better on that end of the floor.

The Sooners only shot 8-for-32 (25 percent) in the first half, and finished the game connecting on only 35 percent of their shots — despite KU struggling to get stops, too, for a stretch of the second half.

Kansas held a Big 12 opponent under 40 percent for just the fourth time this season in the win.

• Up next: The Jayhawks will play away from Lawrence for the rest of the season now, beginning with Saturday’s regular-season finale at Oklahoma State (5 p.m., ESPN).

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Oklahoma 63

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Oklahoma 63

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oklahoma


Comments

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm glad we won this game, and I'm glad we extended our Home Finale streak to 34 years. But let's not con ourselves into thinking this was a great win. For 32 minutes we were getting outplayed and outcoached in our own house by a Sooners team that entered the game tied for last place in the Big 12. Being down by 12 to the Sooners last season when they were ranked so high and had Buddy Hield would not have been surprising, but down a dozen to this bunch of Sooners? Needing a comeback to beat this bunch of Sooners? To me, that is disturbing.

And if that's how we play against last-place Oklahoma at home, heaven help us when we go to Gallagher-Iba Arena - a building Self has so much trouble winning in - on Saturday! We've lost three straight in GIA, and last year we got blown out by an OSU team that lost 20 games and finished next-to-last in the Big 12. And this year's group of Cowboys is better and hotter under Brad Underwood than they were under Travis Ford. If we play at OSU the way we played at home to OU, our goose is cooked!

David Morrison 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Are you a KU fan or not. A win is a win. They are ranked Number 1 in the country. They got it done...period. Enough of the negative chatter. ROCK CHALK.....KU

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Of course I'm a KU fan! Which is why I find the team's performance in the first 32 minutes of the game so disturbing. They hardly looked like a #1 team. They never should have had that much trouble against a last-place team at home. Criticizing the Jayhawks for playing footsie with a bad team does not make me any less of a fan. If anything, I'd argue it makes me more of a fan than you because I acknowledge that KU should not have been in a position to need a comeback to beat last-place OU.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bill Self admitted in his postgame interview with Greg Gurley that it wasn't a great win and that OU outplayed his team. Why can't you?

David Morrison 5 months, 3 weeks ago

So, your analysis is correct. Who cares. Rock Chalk.....

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bryce is a fan. I was worried being down 12 with 10 minutes to go against a Lon Kruger team. Sooners will be one of the top 4 teams in the BIG 12 next year.

But what a spectacular finish. Vick is surging past Svi and hitting big shots when needed most. Mason just refuses to lose. Graham seems to have come out of his funk, Lucas is playing smart basketball and Jackson is the best freshman on anyone's court.

If you could summarize Bragg's career so far at Kansas in a single play, well I'm pretty sure you know which play I'm thinking of.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't know about Bragg's career, since he had a solid freshman season. But that play (which will surely find a spot on ESPN's Not Top 10) does summarize his sophomore season.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

And Lon Kruger knows a thing or two about winning in Allen Fieldhouse. He led K-State to back-to-back victories over the Jayhawks in the Phog in 1988 and 1989. The 1988 game snapped KU's 55-game homecourt win streak, at the time a school record and a Big 8 record.

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bragg has 2 years and the rest of this season to completely turn around his career at Kansas. Every once in a while you can see just how good he can be when/if he can put it all together on a consistent basis.

I would love to see Bragg become the player we all hoped he would be.

Shannon Gustafson 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Self has said many times that every season a team will play 1/3 of the games and be great, 1/3 they will be average, and 1/3 they will lay an egg. The challenge is how many of those "egg" games can they win. Clearly this team has thus far shown an ability to lock down on defense when they have to (shots aren't falling, trailing late) and an ability to finish strong even when they lay an egg the rest of the game. This game was another example of that.

Combine the above info with the distraction/emotions of senior night, the big 12 being locked up, etc. and you've got a "trap" game in the making. Fortunately this team was able to keep that from happening, even though it looked likely for most of the game.

Dale Kroening 5 months, 3 weeks ago

In the end all that matters is the W.... ROCK CHALK !!!!!

Tony Bandle 5 months, 3 weeks ago

It was a terrible game but it was a great win. Championship teams find ways to overcome themselves when they are that night's biggest obstacle. KU did everything possible to earn a loss yet they overcame themselves and pulled it out.

Sometimes, when you win a game you deserve to lose, that makes the game special. But I totally agree with Bryce that come Big 12 and NCAA Tourney time, a game played like tonight will get us a big fat loss.

Come on, Hawks, I've only been retired for two months, I'd like to enjoy it a little longer but you guys are hard on my heart [and my TV - luckily they invented nerf balls].

Brett McCabe 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Sometimes I wonder if any of you know anything about sports at all. Your comments suggest that you don't.

The team was flat in a no-motivation game and it was clear that Frank was struggling from his emotions on Senior night.

The last 8 minutes were some of the most exciting basketball I've seen in some time, and the energy in the Field House was unbelievable! It was a 20-point flip in something like 8-minutes. Incredible. Frank's steal reminded me of Sheron's, Devonte was money, Vick was terrific and Josh continues to amaze. And the crowd was absolutely amazing. Plus, I think Frank sealed his Player of the Year.

They'll get their form back against OSU. Looking forward to great things!

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

No motivation game? It was Senior Night and with a 33 game win streak on the line.

And you question other people's knowledge?

Jim Keen 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Brett nailed it. Anyone who has played competitive sports knows that games are a good part mental. The guys were emotionally drained before they even started the game. They had already clinched the Big 12 title, and they were excited and nervous playing on senior night with three of them for the last time in Allen Fieldhouse. It was the perfect recipe for "flat". The fact that they were able to put all that aside and go on a 31-9 run to finish the game is a testament to their gutsiness and pride. They were awesome! The crowd was awesome! RCJH !

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

So you agree that Senior Night was a no motivation game? Winning 34 in a row says otherwise.

Games are a good part mental? Keen observation.

Brian Mellor 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Mental, yes, but I don't think it's right to call it due to being a "no motivation" game. Obviously they want to win on Senior Night. I'd call it, rather, an "emotionally compromised" game. As said above, this team will go as far as Mason takes us, but I'd correct that to: this team will go as far as Mason, Lucas, Graham, and Jackson take us.

Three of those guys were playing their last game at AFH. All of them playing their last game together there, and it was absolutely clear that neither Mason or Jackson in particularly had their heads bolted on straight. I think Mason playing his last game in front of his whole family and his son (for the first time, if I heard right), had as close to a case of terminal performance nerves as he's going to get. They were sped up and when OU didn't just fold over they tightened up as well. Most of all, they weren't enjoying themselves, at all. Frustrated, forcing things, embarrassed. Then when the top fell off the bucket in the mid-2nd they started having fun and brought the avalanche.

Good news is I don't see them having that sort of anxiety on a stage again until the Championship game, if they make it that far. They've been there, done that for the rest.

Andy Godwin 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"Back to form"? The OSU game is not an anomaly. This team is the least dominant in Self's era, but clearly the most resilient. No lead appears safe and no deficit, other than the away game against West Virginia, appears insurmountable. The truth is this team is one Frank Mason away from being in the middle of the pack. The name of the game is to win and they have accomplish that many times this year, but it will be an amazing accomplishment if this team can indeed advance deep into the NCAA tournament. The good news is there are truly no teams this year that you can pencil in as the likely national champions. Many indicated UCLA because they can score with ease or UNC because they are the most complete team (who by the way lost last night to UVA 53-43). I think it should be clear by now that KU will only go as far as Mason can carry them and here is hoping for an amazing run. Go, fight, win.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Your last sentence reminded me of this:

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

It kind of depends on your definition of DOMINANT. Looking at KU's overall wins and losses they are 27–3 and in the conference, 15–2, That appears to be pretty dominant numbers but when you compare our average scoring margin, it's just over 11 points per game with most of these games coming down to the final few possessions.

Maybe you heard the ESPN studio talking about North Carolina being the best team in the country before they lost to Virginia. For some reason, if there isn't an ACC team with a #1 seeding then Joe Lunardi and ESPN seem to go apoplectic.

Marius Rowlanski 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Really enjoyed the videos and all the speeches. I really hope Graham will make his speech next year.

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