Norman, Okla. Though a winning streak dating back to the second week of November appeared in jeopardy, No. 2-ranked Kansas basketball redeemed itself after a shaky first half at Oklahoma Tuesday night, securing 14th-year head coach Bill Self his 400th victory with the Jayhawks, in an 81-70 comeback win.
Fittingly, a tough veteran whom Self respects and has argued should be in the conversation for national player of the year, senior Frank Mason III, made sure KU — which trailed by nine at the break — didn’t fall flat on the road, against the Big 12’s worst team, OU (6-9 overall, 0-4 Big 12).
Mason scored 19 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, delivering Kansas its 15th consecutive win and keeping his team unbeaten in the Big 12 on the same night the nation’s new No. 1, Baylor, lost at West Virginia — making Kansas (15-4, 4-0) the only unblemished team in conference play.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when:The Jayhawks left the visitors’ locker room at halftime.
View a gallery from Tuesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Sooners in Norman, Okla.
The energy and attention to detail Self expects from his players all showed up when play resumed following intermission.
And with that renewed effort came easy and much-needed baskets for Kansas. The Jayhawks scored the first 13 points of the second half, erasing their nine-point halftime deficit and taking a lead before Oklahoma made a shot.
After KU shot just 3-for-11 on 3-pointers in the first half, Svi Mykhailiuk opened the second by draining one from deep. It was a sign of things to come, as well. Kansas went on to make nine of 16 3-pointers over the course of the game’s final 20 minutes, with Mykhailiuk and Mason delivering many of the damaging bombs — 7-for-10 combined.
In the first eight minutes of the half, the two combined to connect on six of eight from beyond the arc. When Mason made his third 3 of the second with 12:09 to play, KU had put OU in a nine-point hole.
After Kansas erased a nine-point halftime deficit at Oklahoma to win 81-70, head coach Bill Self discusses the improved effort, the importance of senior guard Frank Mason III and much more.
• Offensive highlight: There weren’t many for the Jayhawks in the first half, when they missed eight of their final 10 shot attempts, leading to a 34-percent mark in the first 20 minutes and a 36-27 deficit entering the second half.
That trend faded down the stretch, though, and freshman Josh Jackson (16 points) teamed up with veteran Devonte’ Graham on one of the smoothest plays of a strong finish on the road.
Out of a timeout, Graham lobbed a pass high for Jackson on the right side, and the supremely athletic wing from Detroit threw down a smooth two-handed slam, giving Kansas a 64-54 advantage and its first double-digit cushion of the night.
• Defensive highlight: Behind in the opening minutes at home versus heavy favorite Kansas, the Sooners tried to get an easy basket in transition off a defensive stop.
Freshman Jordan Shepherd pushed the ball quickly up the sideline, eying a driving lane to the rim. He saw one, for sure, but when he elevated for the finish, sophomore backup forward Carlton Bragg Jr. proved just as fast as the OU guard, and much longer.
Bragg flew upward after catching up with Shepherd and extended his arms high in the air for a blocked shot.
Just more than a minute later, Bragg was back at it, defending the rim on a baseline out of bounds set, and swatting away a layup attempt by Oklahoma veteran guard Jordan Woodard, who had just entered the game.
In Bragg’s previous 14 games this season, he had only blocked five shots, but showed within minutes his ability to play a factor defensively on this particular night, at least, before finishing with three blocks.
• Key stat: Three-point defense. KU couldn’t have pulled off the win without connecting from deep, but defending OU’s 3-point tries well proved key, too.
The Sooners shot just 5-for-19 in the loss, and only made two of nine in the second half.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse Saturday to take on Oklahoma State (1 p.m., ESPN2).
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