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The Day After: Almost at Oklahoma

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Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

Whether you want to talk about the defensive breakdown in the final seconds or the fact that a short-handed KU team nearly walked out of Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday with a surprising victory, the so-called meaningless final game of the regular season gave us plenty of material.

The Jayhawks clearly are and should be proud of the effort they put forth without Perry Ellis (knee), Cliff Alexander (eligibility) and Brannen Greene (suspension), three regular rotation guys who missed the game. But one of the best signs for this up-and-down KU team was that no one walked out of there feeling too good about the moral victory.

Landen Lucas and Frank Mason, who both played fantastic games, focused on the bottom line — a loss — and Bill Self said he was pleased with the team's effort but not as pleased with its execution.

In many ways, that's a best case scenario right now. Had KU won, some of those execution breakdowns might have been easier to overlook or, at the very least, might not have had the same impact. Instead, the Jayhawks lost and came away from the game hellbent on tightening those areas up instead of feeling too good about coming oh-so-close in difficult circumstances.

That's the kind of adversity that tends to pop up from here on out, and this team, at least to me, seems as focused as it's been all season.

Quick takeaway

It remains to be seen how well the Jayhawks will play this postseason, but you can't question the fact that they're ready. The past three games — two victories and one loss — have all resembled Big 12 or NCAA Tournament games, with both teams fighting and scrapping for every possession, point or advantage they could get. The two victories were at home and the Jayhawks won't have that advantage the rest of the way. But Sprint Center is close to home and their showing at Oklahoma, without three regulars, has to at least be a little encouraging when they think about playing away from Allen Fieldhouse.

Three reasons to smile

1 – You can't say enough good things about what Landen Lucas did on Saturday. He was a monster on the glass, he played tough on both ends of the floor and, seemingly out of nowhere, even gave KU an offensive presence in the post that was missing with Ellis out. Lucas' confidence and production are rising to new heights every time out, which can only help this team in the win-or-go-home weeks ahead. Lucas played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss to OU and showed, as long as he continues to play like that, that he can give productive minutes not just fill in as a stop-gap option.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – KU's offensive rebounding was insane... at least early. The Jayhawks grabbed 16 offensive boards total in this one and had 14 of them by late in the first half. Landen Lucas grabbed six offensive boards by himself and Kelly Oubre (3) and Hunter Mickelson (2) also chipped in to give KU multiple extra possessions. OU coach Lon Kruger tweaked his rebounding match-ups in the second half, which emphasized big guys blocking out instead of helping on the drives of KU's guards, and that kept Kansas from adding to its total. Still, had the Jayhawks not done that kind of work on the glass, they probably would've been down double figures at halftime instead of just two.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot  attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. by Mike Yoder

3 – Even though he wound up getting the game-winning tip-in, KU's guards did a good job of making OU junior Buddy Hield work for his 18 points. Hield shot just 6-of-20 from the floor and even though Wayne Selden did next to nothing offensively, his work, in limited time, guarding Hield was very valuable. Every shot Hiled took was contested — he was 2-of-7 from three-point range — and he only got to the free throw line five times, making four. If there was an issue here, it was the fact that Hield got seven boards, one of which won the game.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Brannen Greene's last-minute suspension is a real problem. Not only did it hurt KU's chances on Saturday — Greene likely would've gotten most if not all of the 13 minutes Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk played and given his experience may have knocked down an extra shot or two that Svi missed, which could have changed the outcome — but it's also a recurring problem. Self suspended Greene for “just being irresponsible,” and every time the guy has been in trouble during his two years at KU so far, that has been the basic reason behind it.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – Those who want to will blame the ankle injury, and that's a legit excuse especially when you consider it limited him to just 18 minutes, but Wayne Selden's confidence has to be a concern right now. He missed all seven shots he took, including a pair from behind the arc, and did not score a point or grab a rebound. There are enough other options, especially when Ellis returns, for this team to overcome Selden's struggles, but one can't help but wonder what it would look like if he were clicking.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

3 – It's a shame that the Jayhawks' defense on Oklahoma's final possession took away from the fantastic play call and clutch free throws by Frank Mason that tied the game. After watching the replay a few times, several guys were way too passive on that final drive by Jordan Woodard. It's a tough spot to be in because you definitely don't want to foul, but you can't allow a guy to split two defenders and get an open look either. Mykhailiuk came over to challenge the shot after Woodard got by Mason and Oubre and that left Hield all alone to crash the rim for the game-winner. The only good thing to come from the failure to get a stop was that the Jayhawks were absolutely sick about it. That might be what it takes to help get it fixed.

One for the road

KU's loss at Oklahoma in the regular season finale:

• Marked the first time in 10 years that the Jayhawks dropped three-straight regular-season conference road games. In late 2005, KU lost at Texas Tech (80-79, 2OT, 2/14/05), at Oklahoma (71-63, 2/21/05) and at Missouri (72-68, 3/6/05).

• Made Kansas 24-7 overall and 13-5 in Big 12 play, its lowest conference win total since going 13-3 in 2005-06.

• Dropped KU's all-time series lead vs. Oklahoma to 142-66, including 50-42 in Norman.

• Moved Self to 349-76 while at Kansas, 14-5 against Oklahoma (14-3 while at KU) and 556-181 overall.

• Made KU 2,150-829 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head to Kansas City, Missouri, where they'll open play in the Big 12 tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Sprint Center as the top seed against the winner of the Wednesday game between the conference's No. 8 (Kansas State) and No. 9 (TCU) seeds.

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

Comments

Micky Baker 7 years, 8 months ago

KU got down by as many as 11 points in the first half and still continued to give great effort and never let OU get a big run. We were only down by 2 at the half. I was not disappointed in their effort, but I do feel very badly for the guys. They really played hard and kept clawing back even though we were missing our best player, a guy that could have been one of the top scorers in the game, and our best outside shooter. I feel badly for the players. They were so close to overcoming more adversity that they've had to face going into any other game this year. I felt our guys deserved to win the game.

What I want them to take from the game is how games can be when the kind of effort delivered yesterday is given when we aren't short handed by everyone that checks into the game at one time or another. We should know our opponents in the Big 12 going into the tourney and there should not be any excuse not to come out with fire each and every game from here on out. We should also go out with a chip on our shoulder because there are a lot of people that don't believe this team deserves a 2, or even a 3 seed even though the guys played the toughest schedule in the country. There isn't even a close second in that regard.

If we play with that kind of effort on defense and on the boards in the Big 12 tourney, we should win it unless some team makes 20 threes by just throwing it up late in the shot clock. We need to play like we're an underdog, because we're going to be treated like one. Some believe that we only beat WVU because of "the refs", as if because one team is called for 31 while we're called for 23 is "favorable" treatment by the refs. We haven't gotten any favorable treatment by the refs. When you have teams that play like WVU, they're going to foul a lot. They fouled us a lot.

Take care of the ball, rebound, and play with intensity on defense, and we can go deeper than the Sweet 16. But, it's on them and whatever the outcome is, we shouldn't feel like it hurts us more than it does them.

Charles McMillan 7 years, 8 months ago

If the refs would have caught the 6 step travel at the end of the game all of this would be no necessary talking about losing in regulation.

Bill Campbell 7 years, 8 months ago

I saw Seldon and Oubre standing flat footed almost right under the goal where Hield jumped over them to score. Had they been further away from the basket, or actually jumped for the shot on the rim, then Hield would have had a foul for over the back. Still, what a great effort by our guys from the regular season bench. I really hope our shooting comes back for the tourney, but judging these road games, we struggle when not within the confines of the Phog.

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