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Kansas defeats Oklahoma, 67-64

  • 6 p.m., Jan. 18, 2022
  • Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, OK

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Christian Braun’s late 3 buries Sooners in ‘grind-it-out’ Kansas road win at Oklahoma

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, right, celebrates with teammate Christian Braun (2) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, right, celebrates with teammate Christian Braun (2) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Norman, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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Norman, Okla. — Relatively quiet going into the final minute of the Tuesday’s game, Kansas junior had a simple philosophy about his role in the seventh-ranked Jayhawks’ 67-64 win at Oklahoma.

“Everybody else stepped up and hit a big shot, so it was my turn,” Braun said of his 3-pointer from the wing that proved to be the game winner. “I just had to hit the shot.”

With leading scorer Ochai Agbaji missing eight minutes in the first half because of a wrist injury, and the Jayhawks basically using just their five starters for most of the second half, Kansas survived a 20-2 second-half run by the Sooners by executing flawlessly in the final few minutes.

With his left wrist heavily taped and Agbaji misfiring on open shots throughout the game, the KU senior and Big 12’s leading scorer finally cracked the scoring column on a tough layup with 5:25 to play. The bucket, which followed a sick spin move in transition by Jalen Wilson, who led all scorers with 16 points on Tuesday night, tied the game at 52 after Kansas had trailed by six just a few minutes earlier.

More important than that, though, it sparked a stretch of 10 points in the final few minutes that helped Kansas emerge victorious.

Agbaji hit two 3-pointers — one that pulled Kansas to within a point and the other that tied the game at 58. Then, with just under a minute to play, he drove hard to his right to give Kansas a 62-60 lead.

“Well, he’s a winner,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Agbaji after the victory. “He’s been our best player all year long and CB’s been our second best, so for those guys to step up and make those plays in the last four minutes speaks volumes of talent, but also toughness and character.”

While each one of Agbaji’s points was massive in what Self called “a grind-it-out, piece-it-together win,” the fact that the injured Jayhawk emerged again as a dangerous scoring threat after being off all game, may have been the biggest part of the equation.

See, for the second time in a week, it was Agbaji who had the ball in his hands with the game tied and the clock racing toward zero. A week ago, he stopped his drive and dished to Dajuan Harris Jr., who hit the game-winning layup against Iowa State.

On Tuesday, he did the same thing, this time dishing to Braun for the same result.

“It was so similar to Iowa State with Dajuan,” said Braun, who finished 5-of-8 from the floor for 15 points in 33 minutes. “Och is the best player in the Big 12 right now, probably the best player in the country. So everybody’s going to look at him. And both times everybody’s looked at him, he’s made the right play.

“We expect Och to make the right play down the stretch every time. We want him taking shots, obviously, but if he can make the right play, that’s what he’s done two times and it’s worked out.”

After the bucket, which fell through with 10.9 seconds to play, Braun let out a roar and had what he called “a discussion” with a few OU fans sitting courtside in the corner.

“They were telling me good job and congrats,” Braun said with a sly smile. “They were telling me it was a good shot down the stretch. I told them, ‘Thank you,’ and that’s all it was.”

Oklahoma had two shots to tie the game in the final 10 seconds, but KU fouled intentionally on the first possession, sending OU to the free throw line with 6.1 seconds to play, and then happily surrendered a prayer from beyond half-court on the Sooners’ final possession.

“We wanted to foul the first time,” Wilson said. “But the second time we were going to live with the half-court shot.”

Tuesday marked the return of senior guard Remy Martin to the Kansas lineup. Martin played 15 minutes off the bench and made one of five shots. His playing time was limited to just two minutes in the second half, but Self said that was mostly because of Martin’s rust and the strength of his starters.

“It looked like he hadn’t practiced in two or three weeks, or practiced much,” Self said of Martin. “He tried to do too much early and turned it over. And, in the second half, I just thought we’d be better off going with the guys that were out there.”

Asked if he knew how Martin’s bone bruise in his sore right knee held up throughout the game, Self said, “I do not. I assume fine. Nobody told me anything different.”

Braun and Wilson certainly weren’t worried about Martin’s psyche or anything else after Tuesday’s victory.

“He’s doing good,” Wilson said of Martin. “We’re all keeping him up. Games like this happen. Mentally, he’s still there. We were all cheering as loud as we could, so he’s good.”

Added Braun: “We’re really excited when Remy gets 100% (healthy). He’s going to be great for us. Remy’s the best teammate. Loves Jayhawks. Loves playing at Allen Fieldhouse more than anything. Remy doesn’t really care about how many minutes he plays as long as we win.”

While Self and company were pleased with how they finished the game, the trio of Jayhawks who talked with the media after Tuesday’s win said there were still far too many areas in which they could have performed better.

KU (15-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12) scored on four straight possessions to open the second half, giving them a 12-point lead. Kansas then made seemingly every play late to escape with their second conference road win of the season.

“In between we were awful,” Self said.

The Sooners (12-6, 2-4) had plenty to do with that, ripping off a 20-2 run that flipped the script and gave OU total control. But KU responded and played its best basketball when it counted the most.

“We work on those kinds of moments in practice every day,” Wilson said of executing down the stretch. “I think we’re very prepared for games like that. We’ve shown it in the past and I think we love games like that.”

Asked what there is to love, Wilson smiled and said, “It’s just the grit. Those kinds of games are fun. Especially on the road.”

Next up, Kansas will stay on the road when the Jayhawks head to Kansas State for this season’s first edition of the Sunflower Showdown. Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. on Big 12 Now via ESPN+.

Comments

Brian Mellor 4 months ago

Some editing needed I think. By the score flow described here, it seems both teams scored negative points while in the 40s.

Also “Agbaji finished with scoreless”.

David Robinett 4 months ago

We are darn lucky Groves missed so many shots he usually drains.

Tony Bandle 4 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] I'll take an ugly-ass win over a well-styled loss any day but, geez...whatever the Hawks had for breakfast, don't ever serve it again!

2] Who was that guy out there for 35 minutes wearing #30?

3] We missed so many bunnies, KU looked like Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs!

4] Getting Remi back will certainly help.

5] Let's say we go 9-0 at home. We're 2-1 on the road already. KSU, TCU, TX, WV should fall. That puts us at 15 -1. Probably lose at BU and ISU, so that makes us at 15-3...yep, we win the conference again!

6] Still, what a bizarre game...well into the second half and Ochai hadn't scored and Big Mac had one rebound! Thank God OU missed countless opportunities to put it away.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months ago

1] our offense is exposed now. Tell coach BS to stop running offense through 5.

3] mostly from Harris, but I like his aggressiveness. He can learn how to control speed, hesitate moves, rather than straight layup to the basket. Learn from other PGs.

Rodney Crain 4 months ago

5] I see at least 5 losses not 3, TX and WV on the road will be a test for this team. BU at home will be a blood bath.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months ago

Good win, but we got robbed again on fouls#. Ochai managed with double fig. Harris stepped up his FGs, too bad those layups just couldn't find the hole. I like his assertiveness. Wilson is back and better. JCL is super senior but plays panic - calm down, sir! CB is just too cool at the closing seconds. Mitch is a spark off the bench! Thank God the Groves bros couldn't find their rhythm like last time.

Benjamin Shear 4 months ago

Obiter Dictum:

*First, thanks Matt for putting up these articles so quickly after the game. I also like commenting without much delay so I don't forget things...

*Any road win in the Big 12 is a good win.

*5 minutes before the end of the first half HCBS subbed out all 5 players. I've never seen him do that before.

*Winning on the road with the highest scoring player in the league (Agbaji) going scoreless until final 5 minutes of the game is tough to do.

*Braun is fearless! What a shot!

*We got 15 points and 10 rebounds out of the 5 spot in this game. That's much better! DMac wasn't a prolific this game, but he really seems to be moving better and with improved energy.

*Speaking of improvement, Wilson continued to look good. He truly looked like a starter on a final 4 team. He may be the best 6th man in the country at this point in the season.

*It is concerning to have such prolonged scoring draughts (this game and also the OSU game). However, I'm not sure it was really because of OUs defense. It just seemed that the easy shots wouldn't fall. It happens. I have no idea how to address that, but I hope HCBS does. It's unacceptable to go 5, 6, 7 or even 9 minutes without a basket at this level and this point in the season.

*Once again KU is not getting to the FT line. We only shot 6 FTs the whole game (compared to OUs 18). Is this because we are not aggressive enough? Or something else?

*KU almost shot better from 3 than from 2 (47.1 vs 47.4). That's.....odd. I think it also means we should shoot more 3s?

Bryce Landon 4 months ago

If you told me that Kansas was going to blow a 12-point lead, that Ochai Agbaji was going to go the first 35 minutes of the game without scoring, and that he was going to suffer a wrist injury that would send him to the locker room for 8 minutes, I'd have sworn we would have lost this game. But thank goodness that the Jayhawks got their $#!+ together and out-toughed Oklahoma in crunch time. And thank goodness most of all for Christian Braun, who single-handedly won this game with his 3-pointer and free throws at the end of the game!

I was hoping Kansas would embarrass Oklahoma on their home floor, given that OU is heading to the SEC in a few years, but breaking their hearts in the final 15 seconds of the game is just as satisfying. Rock Chalk Jayhawk, and to hell with the Sooners!

Rodney Crain 4 months ago

I would rather be lucky than good.

OU had 12 more free throws than us, made 7, we only had 1 more foul.

Lightfoot outplayed DMac playing 12 fewer minutes. He had more points and rebounds than Dmac. Can we stop the DMac is back talk till he puts at least 3 good games together in a row?

Basically a 7 man rotation tonight. Pretty thin. With OA off till late, and Dmac and Harris barely noticeable we dodged a bullet tonight. Again.

Any road win in this Thunderdome conference is huge. Especially when you are begging for a loss the way we are playing.

Andy Godwin 4 months ago

Typical coach Self. He goes with the knowns versus the unknowns when down to crunch time. The bench gets very short when Big 12 season is in full swing and even shorter when the game is in the balance. Self decided that the game would come down to players who have been in his program (175 minutes for KU returners from last year and 25 minutes for the newbies combined). Even Remy Martin (“rust’) was not on the court when KU was looking for a spark. At this point who would you bench in favor of Martin, Agbaji or Harris (no way), Wilson (who has found his grove), Braun (last year yes, this year no), McCormack/Lightfood? Good thing Agbaji found his grove during the last few minutes of the game. And credit to Braun for coming up big. I too noticed his jawing with OU fans after his essential three pointer and I don't think it was all pleasantries. He is indeed a competitor (just avoid technical fouls). It is also important to acknowledge the play of Mitch Lightfoot who does things which do not always show up on the score sheet. Lightfoot creates paths for others to drive the lane and score: something others should appreciate when playing as a team. I know Self is looking for 20 points and 15 rebounds from the post (McCormack 6 points and 4 rebound and Lightfoot 9 points and 6 rebounds – close 15 and 13). However, if KU does not bring its “A” game on Saturday, KSU is very capable of sending the Jayhawks home with a loss (I will admit I was pleased to see KSU hand #23 Texas a loss on their home court – nothing better than watching the overrated Texas football and basketball programs underperform on their way to the SEC). Rock Chalk.

Chad Smith 4 months ago

I can't overanalyze this one. Our leading scorer was out of the game 8+ minutes in the first half and our staring point guard was coming off an injury and was still getting his feet under him.

it wasn't pretty at times, but you will take a road win however you can get it. Every game is going to be tough in the Big 12, except maybe home against KSU and TCU. Other than that, keep grinding and executing at the end of games. Those experiences will pay off come March.

RJ King 4 months ago

"starting point guard coming off an injury?" Was DeJuan injured??? Did I miss something?

Robert Brock 4 months ago

When the Jayhawks are good they are very good. When they are bad...they are OUTRAGEOUSLY bad.

I’m delighted that they woke up and played well in the conclusive final few minutes.

Blake Brown 4 months ago

Thanks to the game being on a network station, I could not only record it and watch it from the beginning when home from work, but I could rewind and review plays easily {not so on ESPN+}. In real time, I thought CB`s 3 actually had a curve on it and sure enough upon review, it started out outside the rim and curved just enough to catch the inner right side of the basket. There must have been a draft. Joke Now for the Mildcats who are a bit more formidable as of late. Rock Chalk!

Blake Brown 4 months ago

An interesting stat: Harris took 10 shots. He only made 3 and missed many near the basket that he usually makes.

Rae Bricil 4 months ago

i thought the same thing about Braun's 3. Watching live i thought it was hitting the front of the rim; i.e. off the right from where he shot it. Even on reply i couldn't believe it went in. glad i was wrong.

Brian Skelly 4 months ago

Any conference road win is a good win.    I'll leave it at that.

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