Fighting Fire with Fire, Kansas Puts Away Oklahoma, 85-78
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Four minutes remained and the first half didn’t matter. Big lead gone, the Jayhawks needed a basket – they needed several. Sophomore guard Brannen Greene drained a crucial three-poiner, ultimately starting the five-straight shots that defeated No. 19/20 Oklahoma on ESPN’s Big Monday inside Allen Fieldhouse, 85-78.
Squaring off against its third-straight ranked opponent, Kansas (15-3, 4-1) welcomed Oklahoma (12-6, 3-3) to Lawrence for its first of four Big Monday games this season. Just like Iowa State, KU’s last opponent, Oklahoma entered with a winning record against all Big 12 teams except Kansas. ISU’s victory on Saturday, however, put the Sooners in an unfortunate position. In Bill Self’s 12 seasons at Kansas, his teams are now 64-8 following a loss. To make the situation even more difficult, the last time OU left the Fieldhouse with a win, the Big 12 had not yet been formed (2/17/93).
But the Sooners sure gave it a go.
Sophomore Frank Mason III, freshman Kelly Oubre, Jr., junior Perry Ellis, freshman Devonte’ Graham and Greene lit up the floor in the opening half, combining for an 8-for-8 start from three-point territory to split the game open in a hurry. Oklahoma started the night among the nation’s top-20 in three-point field goal percentage defense (28.4 percent), but Kansas had a loss to avenge. KU piled on a program-record nine threes in the first half (9-for-13, 80 percent) and became the first team this season to hang 50+ points on OU by halftime.
The second half, however, was a complete and utter game changer. In less than 10 minutes, Oklahoma obliterated the 20-point lead. Kansas, who tied a record with nine threes in the first half, couldn’t buy a basket in the second. The Jayhawks made one of their first 10 shots to start the final frame, while the Sooners shot nearly 70 percent to erase the deficit with a 24-5 run.
With 10 minutes to play, a new game started.
Blown lead aside, Kansas weathered the relentless Sooner offense. No doubt it was bleak. KU was shooting a dismal 16.7 percent (3-for-18) to OU’s 66.7 percent (12-for-18). Through the big lead was gone, it certainly helped. Oklahoma tied its largest margin of the game, 69-65, but Ellis grinded his way to a pair of free throws.
Nothing was falling. What was a sure-fire layup in the first half found a way to constantly bounce out in the second. With a little more than four minutes to play, and Kansas trailing by two, Mason fought for an offensive rebound and dished it to Alexander. Under three sets of Sooner arms, Alexander fought to get a shot up. While the bucket didn’t drop, the effort sent him to the line and the freshman forward tied the game, 69-69.
Suddenly, the Jayhawks were back.
Down one nearly 15 seconds later and 0-for-5 from three in the second half, Greene wiped it all away. His three-pointer sparked five-straight Kansas baskets. Pulling ahead 79-74, no lead was safe. Oubre took his turnKelly Oubre soared with a team-best 19 points and added nine rebounds.to shine. He came through with back-to-back strong moves to the rim to keep his team in front. With the Sooners still in striking distance, Oubre pulled down the defensive rebound, forced the foul and made it count. His last free throws sealed the game.
For the second-straight game and fourth time this season, five different Jayhawks scored in double-digits. Oubre led the Jayhawks with 19 points and missed a double-double by a single rebound. Ellis followed with 16 points and eight boards, five in the second half. Alexander locked down his second double-double of the year with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to match. Greene chalked up 12 points, including the critical late-game three. His free-throw streak came to end with 27 seconds remaining, his first miss from the charity stripe since March 5, 2013.
Mason extended his double-figure streak to 15-straight games, the longest since Wayne Simien’s streak in the 2003-04 season. He, Selden and Graham split the assists with four each.
As a unit, Kansas withstood a 37 percent (10-27) shooting mark in the second half with its 57.6 percent (19-33) shooting in the first. By night’s end, Kansas shot 48.3 percent (29-60) to offset Oklahoma’s 40 percent (26-65).
Junior guard Buddy Hield, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer, led all players with 26 points for a new season-high by an opposing player. His sharp-shooting sidekick Isaiah Cousins tallied 18 points. In the second half alone, the duo combined for 30 points. Junior Ryan Spangler tallied a double-double for the Sooners with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Kansas will hit the road for two games when it plays at Texas on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 1 p.m., on CBS and at TCU on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 8 p.m., on ESPNU. The Jayhawks will return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 31, to host Kansas State at 1 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (18/21), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (18/53), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (10/10), Jr. F Perry Ellis (18/55), Jr. F Jamari Traylor (9/10)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 142-65
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (221st-consecutive sellout)
- Made Kansas 15-3 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play.
- Elevated 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.
- Stretched Kansas’ win streak in Allen Fieldhouse to 18-straight games, which accounts for a 10-0 home record this season (9-0 in the Fieldhouse).
- Bettered KU’s all-time record in Allen Fieldhouse to 722-109 and 184-9 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.
- Kansas began the game hitting eight of its first eight three-point attempts.
- The Jayhawks’ nine three pointers in the first half tied a program record and were the team’s most in a half since KU also shot in nine treys in the second half against Hofstra on Nov. 13, 2009.
- The Jayhawks allowed 75 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since 2010 when Kansas gave up 81 points to both Iowa State and Texas on Jan. 29, 2014 and Feb. 1, 2014, respectively.
- Kansas is 11-0 when leading after the first half in 2014.
- After a pair of free throws from Oklahoma junior G Buddy Hield following an intentional foul at the 15:35 mark, Kansas responded with a 20-4 run over the next 5:28 to extend its lead to 33-13.
- On the flip side, Oklahoma went on a 27-7 run to start the second half and claimed its first lead with 10:10 left in regulation, erasing Kansas’ 19-point halftime lead and handing the Jayhawks their largest blown halftime lead of the season.
- The Jayhawks ended the game by going on a 20-9 run over the final 4:56 of regulation, also connecting on 9-of-12 free throws in that span.
- The Jayhawks 51 points in the first half tied for the most Kansas has scored in a half this season (Rider – 11/24/14, Lafayette – 12/20/14). It was also the most points given up by the Sooners in a half in 2014-15.
- Hield’s 26 points were the most by a Kansas opponent since West Virginia’s Eron Harris scored 28 points on March 8, 2014.
- Kansas’ 10 three-pointers were its most in a Big 12 game since the Jayhawks also hit 10 treys against Iowa State on Jan. 29, 2014.
- By halftime, six different Jayhawks had made at least one three-pointer. That’s the seventh time this year that five or more players hit threes in a game and is second only to the Texas Tech contest (1/10) when seven Jayhawks connected from behind the arc.
- KU outrebounded Oklahoma 39-36. Kansas has now outrebounded 14 of 18 opponents this season and is 13-1 in those games.
- Freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., scored seven of his team’s final 15 points over the last 3:27 of the second half to put the finishing touches on his team-high 19 points.
- It’s the fourth-straight contest Oubre has reached double figures and the seventh time on the season.
- Oubre also registered two steals, marking it the fifth-straight game he’s collected multiple steals.
- The Jayhawks are now 5-0 when Oubre connects on two or more three-pointers.
- Sophomore G Brannen Greene’s streak of 21-consecutive made free throws came to an end. Greene’s streak dated back to March 5, 2014 against Texas Tech. The 21-straight tied Jayhawk legend Kirk Hinrich’s streak set in 2002.
- Sophomore G Frank Mason III chalked up 10 points, extending his double-figure streak to 15-straight games. His 10-point outing puts him ahead of Jeff Withey’s 14-game span in the 2012-13 season and ties Wayne Simien’s 15-game span in 2003-04.
- Mason connected on one three-pointer Monday night and has now tallied at least one trey in 16 of his 18 outings this year.
- Junior F Perry Ellis scored in double figures for the fifth time in his last seven outings, shooting in 16 points, 11 of which came in the first half.
- Freshman F Cliff Alexander posted his second-career double-double, tallying 13 points and 13 rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
- Alexander’s seven offensive rebounds ties the most by a Jayhawk this season and his career-high 13 boards also ties for the most by KU player in 2014-15.
- Alexander’s 13 rebounds also marked the most by a KU freshman since Andrew Wiggins collected 19 rebounds against Iowa State on Jan. 13, 2014.
- Since returning from an injury suffered against Georgetown on Dec. 10, 2014, freshman G Devonte’ Graham has recorded 17 assists and just one turnover in 75 combined minutes of play over the last five games.
POSTGAME QUOTES KANSAS
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On the excitement of the game:
“We played as well as we have played, maybe as well as we can play, in the first half, not just because we made shots, but we went after the ball and could guard. We did just about everything right. The second half we weren’t as good. We also missed some open looks, but they were great. When you are playing from behind, sometimes those are the most fun games to play in if you are on offense because the basket looks like a water tub. There’s no pressure if you don’t make shots, and then of course it looked like a thimble for us until late, but guys made plays and our young kids came through. It was a great, great basketball game and an unbelievable win.”
On if he had a good look at Brannen Greene’s last three-pointer:
“Well, I watched. I usually try to watch the games, but I don’t know if I had a special look or anything like that. It was a big-time play because we are shooting one to try to tie it, and off a missed free-throw we end up going up two. There were some big shots, I thought Brannen’s first two that he made off the elevator door play was as big as shot as it was because it goes from four to two (point deficit) and then I think Frank (Mason III) hit one high off the glass and it goes from four to two and then BG hit a big shot for us. Of course, how many great plays did Kelly (Oubre, Jr.) make for us down the stretch. It was a great team effort, but Brannen obviously played very, very well.”
On Cliff Alexander’s play:
“Cliff had a really good practice yesterday and had a great shootaround today. Cliff has been a struggle, he’s the most coachable kid in the world and we all love him, but he’s been a struggle because he hasn’t brought the same energy level consistently. When he doesn’t play with energy and balance he becomes average because guys that aren’t unbelievably skilled make up for it by their intangibles. Tonight he looked like he had skill because his intangibles were so good. I thought he was great, 13 and 13 against those two cats, and I thought he played very well. Jamari (Traylor) has a hip flexor deal and he wasn’t effective at all, so it was a good thing that Cliff came through.”
On these type of close games that they have played:
“I think in the Florida game we started off miserably and flipped it in a positive way. Utah we were miserable in the second half and almost couldn’t get it back. I think they took the lead late in the game and then we closed it. I’ll have to watch the tape, but I don’t think we played as bad tonight in the second half. I thought we missed shots and I thought they played really well. A lot of times when you look at it from my standpoint, ‘We were great, we weren’t awful, we were great.’ But I just think that they were great, the second half more so. You have to figure out how to win close games, and we didn’t do it on Saturday, but fortunately we were able to do it tonight.”
On the competitiveness of the Big 12:
“They are really good, and that was a great home crowd. We were fortunate to win. I don’t think we go down there until the last game of the season; hopefully that game will be played for high stakes. I hate to say this, and fans won’t like to hear this, but you can play really well and lose in this conference. If we would have played well on Saturday it wouldn’t have guaranteed us a win. There are seven or eight teams that, if they play well, they are going to be difficult to beat, no matter where you play. When you have guys that can shoot the ball like that and you have Buddy (Hield) and (Isaiah) Cousins and the basket gets big, sometimes good defense doesn’t make a difference.”
On the importance of Cliff’s play for the team to reach their peak:
“Let’s be honest, Perry (Ellis) and Jamari are great, but they don’t give us the physical presence like Cliff potentially does, and we need that. It changes our team regardless of who starts or what we do moving forward. Everybody needs a rim protector and everybody needs somebody to get rebounds in traffic, who has good hands. There are so many things that good teams have from a physical presence that we really haven’t had that consistently. It’s not knocking Cliff, it has taken him half his freshman year to figure out, but hopefully from this point forward he will be a turned-up guy.”
On finding the right way to push Cliff’s buttons:
“There are people that are very close to him that agree that he is not playing with the motor he is capable with. You may think of that as ‘Well, he’s not trying,’ but that’s not necessarily true. When your brain hesitates and you are thinking, all of a sudden you lose that motor. Can you imagine a sprinter if their mind is cluttered? They have no chance. He hasn’t been playing with that free mind. He is conscientious, he wants to do it, but we just need to say ‘Screw up, that’s fine, just make sure you do it a hundred miles an hour,’ and we would be a much better team.
On Jamari’s injury:
“He hurt his hip about a week ago and it has been bothering him. We didn’t notice it had been bothering him until he told us near the end of the game. That might be the reason why he wasn’t as effective. I didn’t notice him limping or anything like that, but he told us he doesn’t have the explosiveness like he normally does.”
On the team’s pace of play:
“Well when you make your first eight threes there’s a chance you are going to score more points. We didn’t score 81 real points against Iowa State, we traded baskets late. That wasn’t a true we went out and earned 81 points, that was them playing not to foul and us driving down the lane. We need to play fast, we need pace. When we don’t play with pace we become and execution team, and that isn’t who we are as a team right now.”
Kansas junior forward Perry Ellis
On KU’s balanced scoring:
“That’s big. We have a team full of people that can score so it’s always big when everybody is contributing.”
On what the win does for KU:
“It’s big. The Big 12 is a great conference; you’re going to have teams coming at you every day, so it was great to get a great win like this.”
On difference between the first and second halves:
“They’re a great team. They were making plays, and defensively we probably did some things wrong, but they’re a great team and they made some shots.”
On Perry Ellis and Buddy Hield getting a chance to talk:
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to him much. I’ll probably talk to him later tonight.”
On Cliff Alexander’s importance to the team:
“He made some big plays at the end of the game. We definitely need that. Just constantly being aggressive like that will take us far.”
Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander
On Cliff Alexander’s motor improved from the Iowa State game:
“I think my motor was real good; I got a lot of rebounds and ran the floor when I needed to.”
On if he had any discussions with the coaching staff between the last two games:
“We talked after the Iowa State game and said that I need to get my motor back so that’s what I’m trying to do, just get my wind back up.”
On Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre’s level of trust in Coach Self:
“He’s been doing probably before I was even born. I’ve just got to play ahead of the system and do what he tells me to do.”
On the difference between Cliff Alexander’s feelings after the Iowa State game and after this game:
“We needed to bounce back after the Iowa State game and that’s what we did. I felt good going tint other game, my legs were loose, and I just felt really good.”
Kansas sophomore guard Brannen Greene
On how Brannen’ Greene’s three felt upon release:
“I thought it was good. It was definitely good. It had good rotation and rhythm, it was a good shot. I felt that it was good.”
On KU’s three-point shooting in the first half:
“We knew we wouldn’t shoot like that in the second half and Oklahoma got hot in the second half. It’s a game of runs; we made shots, they made shots. We definitely were hot in the beginning; we got into a rhythm, the crowd got into it, they’re back for school. It was a lot of fun.”
On Brannen Greene’s mentality after only playing 8 minutes the previous two games:
“I was fine. I knew what I needed to do; I needed to improve on the defensive end. I’m still working to do that. I’m not a great defensive player but it’s all about improving and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
On Cliff Alexander’s importance to the team:
“He’s a great inside presence and that’s something that we need. We lack size and he’s our leading shot blocker; he gets in here and he brings aggressiveness, a physical presence, and that’s what we need.”
POSTGAME QUOTES OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger
“Obviously two really different halves. KU opened it sharp and shot the ball well and we didn’t do too much to keep that from happening. In the second half it turned around a little bit and we had a bit more fight and getting after it. We couldn’t quite put them away, we had a chance there to widen the margin but Kansas is great and they played great in the first half. We battled in the second half but couldn’t quite get over the hill. Congratulations to Kansas.”
On Oklahoma’s struggles to get points in the last four minutes:
“Well, Kansas got a little momentum there when they got the lead and they picked it up a little defensively, and the crowd got into it. It’s tough to do that and we had a couple looks that didn’t go down. We have to step up and get better looks.”
On any possible positive takeaways:
“I feel good about the fact that we hung together and came back out there and fought and competed. We expected that, of course, and they did that, so we feel good about that, but I don’t think guys expected to do that. We had some deflections that turned into transition in the second half. Still, obviously disappointed in the end result but you take the good from every ball game and the fight in the second half was definitely good and we’ll have to build on that.”
On if they changed much style-wise in the second half:
“Not really. It wasn’t about that so much as it was getting loose balls or 50-50 balls, being a little harder on the boards. It comes down to getting stops and making shots. We had a four-point lead and Kansas got a missed free throw back for a three which was a big play and we have to try to keep that from happening.”
On the play of senior forward D.J. Bennett:
“I thought D.J. stepped in and played his minutes really well. He had a couple big rebounds and contested shots so I thought D.J. did a great job. TaShawn Thomas had a tough time getting started and never did quite get into his flow but he will bounce back.”
Oklahoma junior guard Buddy Hield
On last few minutes of the game:
“That was frustrating, we did a good job fighting back. We had guys stepping in. I’m proud of the guys fighting back, we should have done a better job and Kansas just made shots.”
On having the confidence to come back at halftime:
“All good teams have confidence, we did a good job keeping this steady. We had to find ways to get loose balls and make plays happen. We did a better job of that in the second half.”
Oklahoma Junior Forward Ryan Spangler
On the defensive effort:
“We were leaving them open and weren’t playing the defense that we have been all year, and that is why they got so open threes. Once you see one or two go down, it is easier to make shots and that’s what Kansas did.”
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