Norman, Okla. Coming from a man who has coached three consensus first-team All-Americans, five others who earned All-American honors of some type and nine NBA lottery picks during his 14 seasons at Kansas, the words KU coach Bill Self heaped upon Kansas guard Frank Mason following Tuesday’s 81-70 victory over Oklahoma sure carried a lot of weight.
“Well, it’s big. Every team wishes they had one,” said Self of Mason following the senior guard’s 28-point explosion that saved the Jayhawks at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday night. “We’ve been pretty blessed; we’ve had some pretty good players. But I don’t know if we’ve ever had anybody who can score points in bunches like he can any better.”
To be clear, by anybody, Self was including Andrew Wiggins, Thomas Robinson, Perry Ellis, Ben McLemore, Sherron Collins and countless others in his from-the-heart-and-not-the-hip praise of his current point guard, who scored 19 points after halftime, including 15 in a 29-11 Kansas spurt that put the Jayhawks (15-1 overall, 4-0 Big 12) back in control early in the second half.
View a gallery from Tuesday night's game between the Jayhawks and Sooners in Norman, Okla.
Despite having been around him more than just about anyone since the summer of 2013, Self said he still can’t quite identify Mason’s moods and modes and has started to just sit back and enjoy the show.
“I can’t read him,” Self said of Mason, who Tuesday passed Wilt Chamberlain on KU’s all-time scoring list. “And if you think you can, you’re only kidding yourself. Because nobody can. He’s a unique guy. He’s stone-faced. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. But you could tell there was something different about him in the second half.”
Tuesday’s victory was win No. 400 at Kansas for Self, who, earlier this year, also recorded the 600th victory of his soon-to-be-Hall-of-Fame career. Self is now 400-84 all-time at KU, good for an .826 winning percentage, the best of any coach to ever walk the sidelines at Kansas.
Asked after the game if picking up the milestone win in his home state of Oklahoma added any extra significance to the night, Self demonstrated that he was much more interested in adding to that win total in the future than celebrating what’s in the past.
“Four hundred’s nice,” said Self, the third coach in KU history to reach 400 wins (Phog Allen, Roy Williams). “I don’t think where we won it means anything at all. I’m sure there’ll be another milestone as the first win after 400, but it’s been a fun run but that’s not anything I’ll think twice about.”
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.
Oklahoma senior Jordan Woodard, who missed the Sooners previous four games because of injury returned to action against the Jayhawks despite being ruled out earlier in the week.
Woodard, one of the key contributors to last year’s Final Four team, scored seven points on 2-of-8 shooting in 24 minutes. He did not start but received a loud ovation and introduction from the OU public address announcer upon checking into the game for the first time with 11:31 to play in the first half.
“I thought he gave them a spark even though he’s not 100 percent,” Self said. “That was pretty obvious tonight.”
Faces in the crowd
Former Kansas great Nick Collison, who ranks second on KU’s all-time scoring list with 2,097 points and third on the Jayhawks’ rebounding list with 1,143 boards, was in attendance at Tuesday’s game.
A 13-year NBA veteran with the Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise, Collison led the Jayhawks to back-to-back Final Fours and a berth in the national title game in 2003 before leaving Lawrence.
Other notable faces in the crowd at Tuesday’s game include Thunder GM Sam Presti, former Duke star Trajan Langdon, now a scout for the San Antonio Spurs and several other NBA scouts.
This and that...
Kansas now leads the all-time series with Oklahoma, 145-66, including a 51-42 mark in Norman and a 20-15 clip at Lloyd Noble Center.... KU has not lost since the season opener against Indiana in Honolulu. The 15-game winning streak is the sixth longest in the Bill Self era.... KU senior Landen Lucas’ 10-point, 13-rebound night marked his third double-double in four Big 12 games this season.... The Jayhawks shot .833 from the free throw line (15-of-18), marking their best performance at the line this season.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.