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The Day After: Oklahoma State

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk before Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk before Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Behind another monster scoring day from junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up its third consecutive victory over a ranked team on Saturday, 80-78 over No. 9 Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.

As expected, the game featured a wild — and loud — atmosphere and plenty of highlight plays on offense and defense from both teams.

The Jayhawks raced out to a 19-point first-half lead and then hung on for dear life down the stretch, as the Cowboys played more like a team worthy of a Top-10 ranking in the second half.

The victory moved KU to 4-0 in Big 12 play and further strengthened its position as the favorite to win this year's conference title. Other than Kansas State, which sits at 4-1, every other team in the Big 12 already has at least two losses and the Jayhawks handed the Wildcats their lone loss.

Anyway, as KU coach Bill Self said, it's still far too early to be talking about the conference race. Self said leading the Big 12 now is like leading in the second inning in baseball.

With that in mind, let's take one more look back at Saturday's Oklahoma State victory.

Quick takeaway:

Forget the near collapse and forget all of the technical fouls and intensity, in terms of basketball only, this was a huge victory for the Jayhawks. Remember, this was an Oklahoma State team that Kansas lost to at home and needed a wild finish to knock off in Stillwater a season ago. Getting over the mental hump of handling the Cowboys plus getting a bonus dose of confidence from beating a Top 10 team in the process figure to keep the Jayhawks on the path they currently are enjoying.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – When things got nasty and tempers on the floor flared up, the Jayhawks stood tall, puffed their chests out and pushed back. It's a pride thing when that kind of scrum ensues and, especially because they were playing in their home building, it's clear that, although young and relatively new to town, these guys have plenty of pride in how they represent Kansas and they were not about to get punked by any Oklahoma State intimidation tactics.

Kansas players celebrate as Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown breaks into their huddle during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Brown was issued a technical foul during the incident.

Kansas players celebrate as Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown breaks into their huddle during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Brown was issued a technical foul during the incident. by Nick Krug

2 – How about the continued steady play of Jamari Traylor. In just 19 minutes against Okie State, Traylor scored nine points by hitting all three of his shot attempts and all three of his free throw attempts. To me, the thing that has made the biggest difference in Traylor's recent emergence is the fact that he simply looks comfortable when he's on the floor. He knows what he's doing, has embraced his role and is never asked to do things he's not capable of doing. When asked about his impact after the game, Traylor said he just simply tries to bring energy, rebounding and defense to the floor every time out. And he knows if he's successful, that will give KU an edge. That kind of knowledge is powerful and can create confidence in a hurry. Traylor is a living, breathing example of that right now.

3 – Self pointed this out after the game but it's worth repeating because it shows just how talented and deep this team is and what a luxury that can be. Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis played three of the worst games of their careers and definitely their worst game collectively and yet KU found a way to win. The trio combined to shoot 6-of-22 from the floor and played an average of less than 25 minutes per man against a Top-10 opponent. While three of KU's top four scorers struggled, Naadir Tharpe, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor more than made up for it, combining to shoot 19 for 22 for 51 of KU's 80 points. It's this sort of depth and offensive flexibility that makes KU so tough to game plan for and defend.

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – It's been a rough few games for KU forward Perry Ellis, who finished with just six points and four rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting in 18 minutes against the Cowboys. You can see in Perry's body language that something's not quite right and I think one of the biggest issues right now is his inability to finish at the rim. Since Big 12 play began, Ellis has been getting bumped often near the rim and that contact has thrown off his shot and his confidence. Ellis is an even-keel dude so you won't see crazy mood swings or displays of emotion from him no matter what's going on out there. But if you look closely, you can see that the sophomore is playing frustrated right now.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis floats in for a bucket past Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis floats in for a bucket past Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – That's three consecutive games with a technical foul for Joel Embiid and, although fans and Jayhawks might not like it that this story will now linger, it has to be talked about and it has to be at least a bit of a concern. Embiid was asked about it after the game and it's very clear that he understands what he needs to do. He just needs to keep his cool and cut out the extra-curricular antics. But knowing that and saying that and then actually doing it in the heat of battle are two different things. Embiid's a nice young man and it's clear that he's not a punk and not trying to establish a reputation as one of the Big 12's bad boys. The easy way to get past this is for him to take the advice of teammate Wayne Selden, who came up to him after the incident that earned Saturday's technical and said just one word: “Stop.”

3 – It's tough to sustain a big lead against a good team, particularly when you throw in a halftime break. But the Jayhawks made getting back into the game way too easy for the Cowboys at the start of the second half. OSU played much better and came out with a looser mentality that served them well, but the Jayhawks failed to match the intensity and emotion and allowed the Cowboys to get up off the mat. KU responded to OSU's surge with a nice run of its own, but there's no question that, after the way the first half unfolded, this should've been a much bigger victory than two points. KU survived and may actually be able to learn a lot from nearly blowing it.

One thought for the road:

The Jayhawks' two-point thriller over Oklahoma State:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 4-0 for the third-straight time and the seventh time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Gave KU its third-straight win over a ranked opponent in as many games
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 108-54 all-time against the Cowboys, including a 19-7 advantage in the Big 12 era.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 12-8 all-time against Oklahoma State, 313-63 while at Kansas and 520-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,114-816.
• Improves KU’s record to 706-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 168-9 at home under Self.

Next up:

The Jayhawks will dive back in with another big-game atmosphere at 8 p.m. Monday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for Big Monday.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden (1) goes up to block a shot by Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) in the Jayhawks win against Oklahoma State, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is KU's Joel Embiid (21).

Kansas guard Wayne Selden (1) goes up to block a shot by Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) in the Jayhawks win against Oklahoma State, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is KU's Joel Embiid (21). by Mike Yoder

Comments

Joe Ross 9 months, 2 weeks ago

RE: "...as KU coach Bill Self said, it's still far too early to be talking about the conference race. Self said leading the Big 12 now is like leading in the second inning in baseball."

If you are ahead 4-0 in the second inning, that's better than being down 0-4. Those four runs count in the final score of the game. You often hear coach speak of the importance of starting games well.
An early good often start sets the tone for much of the game. Of course there are critical stretches afterward, and you certainly do not ignore the fact that there is work to be done. But a good start is much better than a bad one, and I want to say the same thing about the race in the conference. At the very least, even Self would not say there's no difference in Kansas' chances of winning the league with the record they have now, versus if they had started much worse.

I'll tell you what I think is going on here. Coach Self doesn't want his players to feel complacent because of their record and wants them to attack every game with some sense of urgency. At 4-0, though it's a great start, you haven't won anything yet. Kansas is still a team that needs to improve in some areas, and this team should not feel as if they can rest on a lead, comfortable as it may be. Not only that, but because Coach is a class act, you don't show disrespect for future opponents by displaying a comfortable posture because of his team's current record. So bottom line is some interpretation needs to be given to his remarks (in terms of what they mean, what they don't mean, and what isn't being said but is no doubt being felt).

Dirk Medema 9 months, 2 weeks ago

So true about Coach keeping the players in the game for the long haul. The dissimilarity to the baseball comparison is that you can score a lot more than one run per inning in baseball. The key IMO is the victories on the road - KSU & ISU, relative to the other contenders.

Rich Hetherington 9 months, 2 weeks ago

We're 2-2 in true road games so far, losing to Florida and Colorado, but beating Iowa St. and Oklahoma. (We haven't played at KSU yet, but I'm confident we'll get the win you're speaking of when the time comes). Either way, we lost to 2 good teams on the road, but also beat 2 good teams on the road, so we're in pretty good shape.

Kent Richardson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Don't show disrespect for future opponents ..... Akin to playing company politics where only the strong survive. Nice info. Two road wins against proven conferernce talents is a running start. Not so much worring about tripping over a hurdle as understanding there are no heats but more a longer race like the 220 lows my dad ran at the KU relays out of LaHarpe KS in 1933 or 1934. His Dad raced against quarter horses at Iola, 220 vs 440 when bettting was legal.

David Leathers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I think HCBS was actually just stating a fact. We are leading the conference after four games (of 18 that will be played), making that exactly 2/9 of the conference games. He wasn't downplaying the importance of having a lead this early. just letting everyone know that there is still a lot of ball to be played.

Brett McCabe 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Perry will be back. Remember, last season he flourished late, and against Big 12 competition. Baylor's zone won't be a good measuring stick but I'm confident that Perry will be back in a big, big way over the next few games.

Robert Brock 9 months, 2 weeks ago

If Jefferson and Austin play their usual soft style, look for Perry to have a good game.

Brianna Zaleski 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Agreed. But teams are going to continue throwing double teams at him until he learns to pass more often. For example: teams are more reluctant to double Embiid now because he's proven that he will be patient and make u pay for doubling him. And not just by scoring, dribbling out and finding the open man.

Brianna Zaleski 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Perry is definitely forcing the issue a little bit and lacks the confidence that comes from seeing the ball go thru the hoop. But he needs to step back a bit and focus on some other things like def and rebounding. That almost always leads to easy opportunities on Off, easy buckets and then you start to see restored confidence on O. But what I'd most like to see Perry concentrate on, is passing. So often he has a one track mind around the rim. If he could I prove his interior passing, that would add, yet, another weapon to his arsenal. I know of a few times, at least this season, where he could have dished to ball off to a cutting Wiggs or Seldon, that would have led to an easy dunk or layup, but instead took it himself and forced a bad shot.

Brian Conrad 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Great article Matt. KU schedule very tough out of the gate.. win Monday and will be very hard for other teams to catch.. need to stay focused in order to have Zero chance for another team to slip in or Share title..

This team has way to much inside and depth to have a TCU loss.

still pretty good to have top 3 guys look out of sink , double digit turnovers in second half and still had 10 point lead with couple minutes left over top ten team.

only sad point... 10 point lead with 2 minutes left and could have lost if 3 went in at buzzer ...

John Myers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Man, took a quick hop over to the OSU boards to read some comments about the game. They are a mighty ignorant bunch over there.

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