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

Monday, February 27, 2017

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.

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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

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