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The Day After: Overcoming OU

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Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) holds up three fingers to celebrate his shot beyond the arc that shot high off the rim and down through the net during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) holds up three fingers to celebrate his shot beyond the arc that shot high off the rim and down through the net during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It was one of the wildest games in Allen Fieldhouse in quite some time and featured two teams fighting from start to finish that played at an incredibly high level.

In short, it was everything we love about college basketball.

Journal-World Sports Editor Tom Keegan remarked after KU's 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday night that it was really like watching three games in one, with KU dominating the first game, OU dominating the second and the Jayhawks out-slugging the Sooners down the stretch in the third act.

Given the way Kansas played in its loss in Ames, Iowa, just two nights earlier, it was not entirely unexpected to see the Jayhawks come out with great energy and a something-to-prove attitude. And, for a while, it looked as if that energy, which led to eight straight made three-pointers during the first 20 minutes, was enough to knock out the Sooners before they ever got started.

But OU regrouped at halftime and kept coming, which led to a fantastic finish and a big moment of growth for KU's young guys and the team as a whole.

Quick takeaway

Although we're all still trying to figure out so many things about this version of Kansas basketball, I think it might be time to put one thing down in pen instead of pencil — the Jayhawks are a much different team at home than they are on the road. I know that sounds obvious and is probably true with most teams, but it's as true with this team as any I can remember. KU was great in a lot of ways against Oklahoma, but the Jayhawks were at their absolute best when the crowd was fueling them and they were fueling the crowd. Had Oklahoma, which confirmed all of the things I already liked about them (mental and physical toughness, great guard play, well coached) had been able to erase that 19-point halftime deficit and walk out of there with a victory, it would've been one of the better wins in school history. Instead, KU rose a level above and the home crowd took the Jayhawks the rest of the way to a huge conference victory that may very well have re-established KU as the team to beat in the Big 12.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Kelly Oubre was clutch down the stretch. Forget the numbers or the way the points came or how much he was on the floor. The freshman was sensational down the stretch and showed glimpses of being able to become this team's go-to guy. He might not be the first option to handle the ball on the perimeter and create a jumper for himself. But if you're looking for someone to attack the rim with poise and either finish in close or get to the free throw line, Oubre looks like your guy.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk as he attacks the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk as he attacks the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's energy, intensity and urgency as a whole much better from the start. That did not really surprise anyone, given that they were playing at home against a ranked team two days after a loss, but it looked natural and effective. It did not seem like a group of athletes trying to play hard to please their coach. It looked like a group of athletes playing hard because it meant something to them. That could be a good sign for the second half of the season.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tips away a rebound as he battles with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tips away a rebound as he battles with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – A lot was made about KU's ability to find a way to win close games during the non-conference season, but this took it to a completely different level. I'm not sure people can understand just how tough it is to push past a collapse like the one the Jayhawks experienced on Monday night. From up 20 and rolling to down 4 out of nowhere. Lesser teams would've folded. Teams without any mental toughness would've fallen apart. But, as Perry Ellis told me after the game, “You just have to block all that out. You can't worry about what the score was, you just worry about what the score is and keep playing.” Great attitude that paid off big time.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – During the 9-0 and 27-7 runs that Oklahoma ripped off to start the second half, KU appeared to be in total retreat mode, especially when the Sooners pushed the tempo early in the second half. It wasn't quite as bad as what Iowa State did by beating the Jayhawks down the floor over the top, but it was clear that KU's transition defense needs some work. OU got several easy buckets and a couple of and-ones simply by pushing the ball and attacking the rim. A lot of coaches have talked about employing that strategy against Kansas because they don't want to try to attack KU in the halfcourt.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) puts up a shot as he is defended by the Jayhawks during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) puts up a shot as he is defended by the Jayhawks during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – It doesn't sound like anything major, but you never want to hear about guys being injured and Self revealed after Monday's victory that Jamari Traylor has been dealing with a hip injury for about a week. Self said the extent of Traylor's injury was not really known at the start of Monday's game but it quickly became clear that it was bothering him. KU's front-court depth is pretty thin and Traylor having even a nagging injury would not be good news for the Jayhawks.

3 – Kansas made more free throws (13) in the second half than field goals (10) and missed seven foul shots in the second half. Combine that with KU's 37 percent shooting from the floor and it's no wonder that OU stormed all the way back. Of course, when it mattered most, KU delivered, which is all that anyone will remember. As Self said, it wasn't so much a case of KU playing poorly in the second half as it was OU playing great.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday:

• Made Kansas 15-3 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play.

• Improved the Jayhawks to 53-17 all-time on ESPN’s Big Monday, including 30-1 inside Allen Fieldhouse. The win was also KU’s 23rd-straight Big Monday win in Lawrence.

• Extended KU’s win streak to 14 games against Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse (dating back to the Big Eight Era, 1/10/94) and made the all-time series 142-65 in favor of the Jayhawks, including 72-16 in Lawrence and 45-7 in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Pushed Kansas’ win streak in Allen Fieldhouse to 18-straight games, which includes a 10-0 home record this season (9-0 in the Fieldhouse).

• Made KU 722-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 184-9 at the Jayhawks' home gym in the Bill Self era.

• Marked the first time the Jayhawks have won a game this season when trailing with less than five minutes to play in regulation.

• Improved Self to 340-72 while at Kansas, 14-4 against Oklahoma (14-2 at Kansas), 18-0 in ESPN Big Monday matchups in Lawrence and 547-177 overall.

• Made KU 2,141-825 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head back out on the road for a tough test at Texas at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be shown on CBS.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78

Comments

Steve Grimm 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't recall a KU team that demanded so many different emotions from me in one game; one season. If I could pull it off, I would need to cheer/scream/smile/yell/high-five/cry/boast/cringe all in the same breath. It is truly exhausting!

Nevertheless, they are my Jayhawks. And I love 'em.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 6 months ago

Great points. Exhausting is a great word to describe it too!

Len Shaffer 7 years, 6 months ago

"But if you're looking for someone to attack the rim with poise and either finish in close or get to the free throw line, Oubre looks like your guy."

No doubt that Oubre looks like he could be the best player on this team. But the way he's been shooting free throws is a concern, especially given how often he gets to the line. I hope as he gets more into the flow of things, his free throw percentage will get better, because that could make a huge difference in the tournament.

Steve Corder 7 years, 6 months ago

OU ran out of gas. They don't have the depth necessary to grind-out a Big 12 championship. Hard to get a "read" on this Jayhawk squad, but if they win it again Self may real-off another 10 straight to get to 21.

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