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Monday, February 19, 2018

Game day Breakdown: No. 8 KU basketball vs. Oklahoma

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is called for a foul on Oklahoma guard Trae Young (11) while trying to knock away a pass from Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (3) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is called for a foul on Oklahoma guard Trae Young (11) while trying to knock away a pass from Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (3) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

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No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks (21-6 overall, 10-4 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (16-10 overall, 6-8 Big 12)

Time: 8 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse

TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. Make life harder for Trae Young

In KU's first meeting with the Sooners this season — an 85-80 loss on Jan. 23 in Norman, Okla. — fabulous OU freshman Trae Young turned in a wildly efficient night, scoring a game-high 26 points on just nine shots while also dishing nine assists and making 10 of 12 free throw attempts.

Since then, Young has hit a slump of sorts and the Sooners have paid for it dearly, losing five in a row and eight of their last 10.

Although he stopped short of discussing Young specifically, Kansas coach Bill Self said he believed that the freshman wall was a real thing and that he has seen it have an impact on some incredibly talented players — both on his team and others — in the past.

“I think it does happen,” Self said. “I'm not saying it's happened with anybody in particular, but it does happen. It's a long year and, even with guys that don't play a ton of minutes, it's a different grind than what you get in high school. I can't speak to that about Trae, but it's not unusual for guys, even upperclassmen, to hit the wall this time of year.”

Wall or no wall, the Jayhawks' goal going into this one surely will be to make it harder for Young to get those 26 points this time around.

And Monday's guest of honor — former KU great Sherron Collins, who will have his jersey retired at halftime — offered his strategy for how to guard Young in the days leading up to the Big Monday battle.

“I think you just have to be physical with him,” Collins said. “I'd hit him every time I get a chance to. No easy layups. He has to hit the floor and you've got to attack him.”

2. The Azubuike free-throw factor

When Udoka Azubuike took the floor for the first meeting with Oklahoma — which now and forever will be known as the Hack-a-Dok game — he did so as a 41 percent free-throw shooter and the Sooners made him pay, taking advantage of a 1-of-8 shooting night at the free-throw line to knock off Kansas.

Since that late January day, Azubuike has been a changed man at the free-throw line, rendering the strategy employed by OU coach Lon Kruger useless for the rest of the conference and improving his free-throw percentage by almost 5 percent.

That might not sound like much. And, yeah, Azubuike still is a sub-50-percent free-throw shooter for the season. But his 60-percent clip in the seven games since that Oklahoma loss have him much more confident and actually has helped KU win a couple of games.

That includes Saturday's 77-69 win over West Virginia, during which Azubuike made seven of 10 from the free-throw line to help KU top the Mountaineers.

Asked if he would say anything to Azubuike before the OU rematch about focusing in on his free throws this time around, Self dismissed the idea and praised his center's work ethic in the weeks since.

“Maybe. I don't know,” Self said. “I think sometimes we can talk too much. He knows. So why bring it up? That wasn't him. That was me in Norman. So he shouldn't feel anything but incentive to go out and try to play well, not because of what happened in Norman, just because of what we have an opportunity to play for.”

Added Azubuike: “I'm confident with my free throws, taking them one at a time. I'm just going to go out there and concentrate, just like I did (vs. West Virginia).”

3. Be rested and ready to run

As has been the case all season, Oklahoma is one of the fastest-playing, highest-scoring teams in the country.

The Sooners' 87.5 points per game rank second nationally only to Duke (88.2) and OU leads the Big 12 in adjusted tempo and is third in the nation.

So what does all of that mean? The Sooners like to get up and down the floor and prefer to play games with a lot of possessions, both hoping to capitalize on having an incredibly efficient offensive player like Young on their side and also hoping to neutralize some of Young's free-wheeling mistakes and turnovers by giving him more chances to make good things happen as a response.

While all of those realities were true the first time around, the Jayhawks had one extra day of rest before that one. So one thing to really keep an eye on in this one is KU's conditioning.

After his 31 minutes against West Virginia on Saturday, Azubuike said he was “exhausted.” And Graham now has played all 40 minutes in 10 consecutive games, a streak that was at just three the last time he faced OU.

Mega Matchup

KU's supporting cast vs. OU's supporting cast

The marquee outside of Allen Fieldhouse and on ESPN all day long no doubt would read Devonte' Graham vs. Trae Young. And in those two terrific point guards, you're probably looking at the Big 12 player of the year and runner-up when the season is finished.

But, as was the case in the first meeting, this one could be as much about the players on both teams not named Graham and Young that make a monster difference.

In particular, that means OU wings Brady Manek and Christian James, who combined for 7-of-15 shooting from 3-point range in the first meeting to help OU pull out the victory.

That's 12 more 3-point attempts than Young took all game. And that was by design. With defenses so keyed in on slowing down Young and the OU freshman so talented with the ball in his hands, OU's “other guys” often get wide open looks and simply have to knock them down.

So, while it's important for Graham — and whichever other Jayhawks get their turn — to give Young trouble, being aware of where OU's shooters are and being able to help on Young and still recover will be a massive challenge.

Jayhawk Pulse

Thanks to its comeback win on Saturday and Texas Tech's loss at Baylor, Kansas now is tied for first in the Big 12 Conference with four games to play in what has become a two-team race.

The Jayhawks know that. And they know even more that in order for next Saturday's game against Texas Tech in Lubbock to matter to its fullest, they have to take care of business against the Sooners in this one.

Getting up for the game should not be hard. KU is facing the front-runner for national player of the year on yet another ESPN Big Monday broadcast, and is coming off of a victory in which both the team and the Allen Fieldhouse crowd delivered as much raw emotion as we have seen all season.

Add to those elements the fact that the Jayhawks are kicking off a stretch of three games in their last four against teams that have a chance to do something no Big 12 team has done in the history of the league — sweep Self's Jayhawks — and it's easy to see how and why Kansas believes it has plenty to play for down the stretch.

Oklahoma, Texas Tech (Feb. 24) and Oklahoma State (March 3) all won the first meeting with Kansas this year, putting each in a position to be the first to achieve the feat.

Despite that trio looming, Self said his team was prepared to take the one game at a time approach into the rest of the season.

“We are going to play a team that obviously beat us the first time we played them, and we need to figure out a way to guard their guys,” Self said after Saturday's victory. “If we do that, we'll set up a big game Saturday. But we need to focus in on OU and have our fans just like they were (against West Virginia).”

Probable Starters

No. 8 Kansas

G – Devonte’ Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Malik Newman, 6-3, 190, Soph.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

Oklahoma

G – Trae Young, 6-2, 180, Fr.

G – Rashard Odomes, 6-6, 217, Jr.

G – Christian James, 6-4, 211, Jr.

F – Brady Manek, 6-9, 210, Fr.

F – Khadeem Lattin., 6-9, 220, Sr.

Comments

Bryce Landon 1 year, 1 month ago

Get a big lead and don't piss it away. Make the lead big enough that the game doesn't depend on Udoka FTs.

I have a sense this will be like the Missouri games in the 2005-06 season. The first game, KU blew a 7-point lead with 45 seconds left, Christian Moody missed two FTs with no time left on the clock, and MU won in overtime, 89-86. In the return meeting in Lawrence, Kansas ran Mizzou off the floor 79-46.

Robert Brock 1 year, 1 month ago

This year’s KU team doesn’t run anyone off the floor.

David Rodenbaugh 1 year, 1 month ago

Recent quotes from Trae Young, NCAA leader in scoring, assists, turnovers, and excuses: "I'm getting guarded like nobody else in the country is being guarded, scouted on like no one else in the country is," "My knee was hurting me the whole game," "I wasn't getting the same burst I usually get." “He went across my chest; it was a foul and the ref didn’t call it". "Then it was a travel, you can’t slide on the ball. But I mean, you’re not going to get every call on the road … it was definitely two calls that should’ve been called".

Hope the hawks can help the Young man learn a life lesson!.

Kent Richardson 1 year, 1 month ago

It was too much pub too soon and there was a bunch of it. Manek has hit the same wall from deep thank goodness.

If Trae would just say "I'm not playing good and not handling the pressure as well as I need to," etc, he would come off better but the rap against him coming in was it's all about Trae. So it's gonna be hard for him to not sulk and cry. Not a good look for a one and done.

Sherron says hard foul him every time he drives which is okay unless you have depth problems.

Did the WVU game create a lasting come together vibe? We will see.

Doug Stahler 1 year, 1 month ago

I am pretty sure I saw a video where Young's dad advised him to attend KU. The rationale was that we would know how to bring the rock star along properly - since that's what we do.

Mike Kendall 1 year, 1 month ago

No prediction of a loss from Benton Smith? Ah, come on, Benton. I had a good feeling Jayhawks would win the battle with the Mountaineers. This one will be a battle, too. The Hawks have so much motivation in this game. The one concern I have is fatigue. Do it again, Jayhawks! Rock Chalk!

Marcus Balzer 1 year, 1 month ago

I hope Dok goes off for 23 and 10 and hits 7 of 10 FTs. Every one he hits he should stare down Kruger running down the court.

Trae has hit the wall. He found out the hard way being the 'man' in college is hard. Night in and night out you are getting not only teams best defender but an entire game plan to stopping you. Not to mention he is playing against grown MEN. I don't care what kind of success you had in high school or early on in the year. Sustaining that high level of success for a freshman is nearly impossible. Especially on a guard who isn't the biggest guy in the world.

Now that being said I feel zero remorse for him He wanted to be the 'man' and he choose OU. He could have went to any other school, with returning talent and not had to burden the load of carrying a team. His decision to make.

OU will stick around early and if KU lets them hang around it could get interesting. IF KU plays like they did against WVU they win this game going away. Get on OU early and eliminate any idea that OU has a chance to win. Last thing you want to do with a wounded team is let them believe they can hang around and then win.

DaNeille Dani Davis 1 year, 1 month ago

Trae Young is a whiner and a cry baby. Get in his head and frustrate him! He'll pout and complain all game instead of playing well!! ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm with you, Mike, about the fatigue factor. OU doesn't worry me, but just how much does KU have left in the tank after such an emotional and draining effort on Saturday? Hopefully, the adrenalin will be flowing.

If Trae Young's comments are accurate, then I'm glad he didn't come to KU. Would suspect that OU is facing some dissension problems. Can't imagine that some of the veteran players on the team like Young's prima donna status, especially given their current long losing streak.

Edward Daub 1 year, 1 month ago

"Trae Young dished 9 turnovers in the Game at Norman?" Could be a Typo, most likely 9 assists.

Has any Team attempted a "Box and 1" Defense versus Young? That would definitely force Trae to "give up the rock"!

I am rooting for KU to Blow Out OU Tonight! However, for whatever reason, KU has struggled to win at AFH more than on the B12 Road this season. Theories as to why? I have no explanation.

Roger Ortega 1 year, 1 month ago

Hoping that if Trae Young hit the wall he sits at it one more game. I wouldn't bet on it tonight though. Everyone seems to find their mojo when playing KU. We just need to play with the energy we had against WVU for both halves. Lattin can't handle Dok so we need to feed the big guy and hope he stays out of foul trouble. Vick showed a lot of emotion at the end of the WVU game so hopefully he's still on an upswing. If Newman can come out as aggressive as he ends games he'll be hard to stop. Svi, well he just needs to find his shot, or get open for em. Graham has to do what Graham's been doing, but hopefully with a couple more 3's falling for him. I think we can win this game. I don't think it will be easy.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 1 month ago

Oklahoma had only one vote in the both the AP and Coaches poll. Trae Young looked tired for large parts of the game against Texas on Saturday.

This is the time to step on their neck with an old-fashioned blowout at the Phog.

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