Ten There, Done That: KU Clinches Share of Crown
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Freshman center Joel Embiid stripped the ball more than blocked it. The rookie’s outstretched arm ripped a shot attempt away from Sooner sophomore Ryan Spangler and eight seconds later, Andrew Wiggins converted the block into a three-pointer, finally cementing No. 5/6 Kansas’ 83-75 win over No. 25 Oklahoma – and the Jayhawks’ 10th-straight Big 12 Conference title.
In its fourth and final appearance on ESPN’s Big Monday, Kansas (22-6, 13-2 Big 12) clinched at least a share of the conference crown with the win against Oklahoma (20-8, 9-6 Big 12), adding to its unprecedented 57 total conference championships. Now in his 11th season, head coach Bill Self has more Big 12 rings (10) than losses inside Allen Fieldhouse (nine).
Embiid fought off the Big 12’s best rebounder in Spangler. The rookie Jayhawk ended his night with the upper hand, collecting his seventh double-double of the year with 12 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high four steals.
Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe led the Jayhawks’ fully-staff leaderboard, pacing all players with 19 points and led his team with five assists. The floor general missed just once all night, going 6-of-7 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. In fact, the Kansas starters as a unit missed just three free throws and all five finished in double-figures. Freshmen guards Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden, Jr., each tallied 15 points, highlighted by three three-pointers from Selden. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis chipped in 11 points to round-out the starters.
Kansas held Oklahoma’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Buddy Hield, to three points in the opening frame, but the sharpshooter unleashed for 13 in the second half for 16 total points on the night. Senior forward Cameron Clark led the visitors with 18 points, while Spangler grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. For the 16th time this season, KU outdid its opponents on the glass, topping the Sooners on the boards by double-digits (40-29).
The Jayhawks couldn’t have started any hotter. Five minutes in, Kansas was shooting a scorching 86 percent, missing just one of its first seven shots. Wiggins and Embiid teamed up for 10 quick points in the opening salvo, setting the tone with a 15-4 advantage. A pair of Sooner makes and seven-straight KU misses, however, saw the lopsided start sharply turn into a tie game at 17-17.
Mixed in amongst the 25-10 Oklahoma scoring run that saw the Sooners climb on top, 29-25, was a long list of Kansas fouls. Not 15 minutes into the game, Tharpe and Wiggins were sidelined with two fouls apiece, hurriedly putting the Sooners into the double-bonus advantage. Freshman Conner Frankamp was called on for relief, but found himself in even bigger trouble when slapped with three fouls of his own.
The Sooners shot under 40 percent for the entirety of the first half and used every boost they could get. They knocked down 10-of-11 from the free throw line and turned the ball over just three times in the opening frame. Weighted down with foul trouble and a sudden-shortage of close-range jumpers, the Jayhawks also had to turn elsewhere to score. They adjusted, stepping behind the line and tied a season-high with six threes in the first half. Led by three long balls from Selden, who paced Kansas with 13 points at the half, KU closed the initial 20 minutes on a 9-0 run.
Despite a 42-33 lead out of the break, an alley oop dunk to Ellis was all the Jayhawks could spark against a 10-2 Sooner run. When a Jordan Woodard three-pointer cut the Kansas lead to a single point, Self had seen enough and called a timeout up 44-43. The Sooners kept at it, sinking 5-of-6 from the floor prior to the first media timeout. On the home side, Embiid’s and-one bucket with 13:59 to play marked the just the second KU field goal of the half. It wasn’t pretty, but Kansas managed a 49-46 lead.
Five-straight points from Hield backed by a three-pointer from Tyler Neal maintained the back-and-forth grind. With the visitors clinging to a 58-54 lead, the stage was set for an intense final 10 minutes.
Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor, Tharpe and Wiggins each scored in the paint for a 6-1 jolt to reclaim a slight lead, 60-59. Aside from providing a pull-up jumper on command, Traylor’s hustle was equally effective. He hit the ground after a missed shot on Oklahoma’s end, tying up the ball which returned to Kansas on the possession arrow. Wiggins cashed in his teammate’s effort on the next possession when his takeover drive to the basket ended in a three-point play.
This time it was Kansas that won the race to the double-bonus benefit. Ellis took the first crack at it, making both following a Je’lon Hornbeak foul slightly under the four-minute mark. As it turned out the free throws didn’t matter as much as the Jayhawks’ toughness down the stretch. Trailing by five, the Sooners looked to Spangler for help. As he went up for the jumper, Embiid’s block never allowed the ball to leave his hand until the seven-footer dished an outlet pass to Selden, who hit Wiggins for the three-pointer that ultimately put the game out of reach.
Tharpe gave Kansas enough to withstand late threes from Hield and senior guard Cameron Clark. He scored eight of KU’s last nine points to put the finishing touches on the 83-75 win – and clinched at least a share of KU’s 10th-straight title.
Kansas will travel to Oklahoma State on March 1 at 8 p.m. on ESPN. ESPN College Gameday will originate from Stillwater that day. KU will return home for Senior Night when the Jayhawks play host to Texas Tech on Wednesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. on the Big 12 Network. Kansas will close out the Big 12 regular season at West Virginia on Saturday, March 8, at 11 a.m. (Central) on either ESPN or ESPN2.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (25/25), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (28/28), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (28/28), So. Perry Ellis (28/31), Fr. Joel Embiid (19/19)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 141-65
ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (211th-consecutive sellout)
- Improved KU to 22-6 on the season, gave Kansas 22 wins for the 25th-consecutive season and for the 30th time in the last 31 years dating back to 1983-84.
- Gave KU a 13-2 Big 12 record and marked the ninth-straight year the Jayhawks have won 13 or more conference games beginning in 2005-06.
- Gave Kansas at least a share of its 10th-straight, 14th Big 12 and 57th overall conference regular-season championship. The 57 titles also added to KU’s all-time NCAA best.
- Including the 2014 campaign, three of Kansas’ 10-consecutive Big 12 titles were accomplished with no returning starters from the previous season (2005-06, 2008-09, 2013-14).
- Made KU the fifth team in NCAA history to win 10 or more consecutive conference championships (UCLA-13, 1967-79) (Gonzaga-11, 2001-11) (Connecticut-10, 1951-60) (UNLV-10, 1983-92).
- Made the Kansas-Oklahoma series 141-65 in favor of Kansas, including 71-16 in Lawrence and 44-7 in Allen Fieldhouse
- Elevated the Jayhawks to 52-17 in ESPN Big Monday games, 28-1 in Allen Fieldhouse and 32-9 under Bill Self. 22
- Gave KU its 13th-straight win versus OU in Allen Fieldhouse.
- Made KU 13-1 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 174-9 in AFH in the Bill Self era and 712-109 all-time in the facility.
- Made Bill Self 13-4 all-time against Oklahoma (13-2 while at KU), 322-65 while at Kansas and 529-170 overall.
- Made KU 2,123-818 all-time.
- Kansas is now 20-0 when leading at the half and 20-0 when leading with 5:00 minutes remaining in regulation.
- The Jayhawks opened the game with a 15-4 run over the first 5:09 minutes of action before OU tied the game 5:58 later with the help of a 13-2 run.
- Kansas saw all five starters score in double figures for the second time this season (vs. Iowa State, 1/29)
- Kansas closed the first half on a 13-2 run over the final 3:06. In both games versus OU this season, KU outscored the Sooners 21-3 in the final three minutes of both first halves.
- KU connected on 16-of-17 second-half free throws and 26 of its 30 free throw attempts (86.7 percent) for the game, marking the team’s second-most accurate night from the charity strip this year.
- The Sooners outscored the Jayhawks 42-41 in the second half. The game was just the fifth this season Kansas was outscored in the second half, all of which resulted in Kansas wins.
- KU has now scored 80 or more points in five of its last six games. KU is now 17-0 when scoring 80 or more points in regulation this year.
- KU’s six first-half threes tied for its most in a half this season (six in 2nd vs. Florida [12/10], six in 2nd vs. Kansas State [1/11]).
- Freshman C Joel Embiid tallied his seventh double-double of the season after amassing 13 points and collecting 12 rebounds. He also posted a career-high four steals.
- Junior G Naadir Tharpe led all scorers with 19 points, marking the fourth time this season he has led the Jayhawks in scoring.
- Tharpe scored 10 of the Jayhawks’ final 14 points over the last 3:15 of regulation.
- Tharpe also dished five assists to just one turnover, marking the ninth game he has totaled a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio or better this season.
- In two games against Oklahoma this season, Tharpe was 11-of-14 from the floor (78.6 percent), 3-of-4 behind the arc (75.0 percent), 11-of-12 at the line (91.7 percent) with eight assists and two turnovers.
- Embiid notched three blocks on the night, moving his season total and Kansas freshman record to 71. He has now blocked at least one shot in 21-consecutive outings.
- Since sitting out against TCU (2/15), Embiid is averaging 14.3 points, 9.3 boards and 3.3 blocks per game.
- With his 15 points, freshman G Andrew Wiggins moved passed Brandon Rush (444) for fourth place on the all-time Kansas freshman scoring chart and now has 457 points on the year, 26 points shy of Xavier Henry (483).
- Wiggins is averaging 18.4 points per game in his last 10 contests.
- Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. tallied three three-pointers on the night, which was the fourth time this year he has connected on three or more shots from three-point land.
- In both matchups versus OU this year, Selden combined for 28 points in both first halves (15 at OU, 13 at KU).
- Sophomore F Jamari Traylor continues his efficiency in the paint, shooting 74.1 percent (43-of-58) on the year and 77.8 percent (28-of-36) in Big 12 play.
Kansas Head Coach Bill Self
On the team’s performance:
“Naadir Tharpe was great. We’re a lot better when he’s not in foul trouble. They drove it hard and we fouled early in the first half. In the first half our defensive percentages were really good, but in the second half we didn’t guard very well. We were stale tonight compared to the other night. That was a no-energy, tired team out there. We didn’t shoot the ball well but we did shoot it great from the free throw line. We haven’t shot it well from the free throw line in a while and that was important to us winning the game. It was a little anti-climactic because we still have three games left in the season. The players didn’t stay out there to celebrate and I told our guys we will celebrate whenever we win it. Right now all we have done is tie. It’s pretty good to be 13-2 in this league.”
On 10-straight Big 12 titles:
“We’ve had so many good players. It’s been a great run. You don’t win unless you have better guys than the other guys and we’ve had better guys. I’m thrilled to death and I’m happy a bunch of young kids are growing up. We are finding different ways to win and we are getting a little bit tougher, but we are not near as tough as we need to be – but we have become mentally tough down the stretch. It was great. It has been a good year, when you win the league it’s a good year. Now we need to go make it a great or special year.”
On the rest of the season:
“We want to go in and win at Stillwater on Saturday. There would be nothing better for us than to go down there and do something special in a juiced building on someone else’s court. Then we want to back it up and have a great senior night. Then we want to go and play well at West Virginia and have as much momentum as we can going into the Big 12 Tournament.”
Kansas junior guard Naadir Tharpe
On what it feels like to win 10-straight championships:
“That’s what we say every time we bring it in from the start of the summer time, all throughout the conference, we say, ‘Big 12 Champs.’ It’s something that we work for. The past season we were doing the same thing and we were just happy we were able to do it as well.”
On if there is pressure to win the Big 12 title:
“No, there shouldn’t be any pressure because we’re all just playing basketball at the end of the day. That’s just how we have to look at it. We’re just going out there and having fun and everything else will take care of itself.”
On if there was any familiarity from the previous meeting with Oklahoma:
“No, Coach (Self) said in the locker room that we can’t think about the first time we played them since it was in the beginning of the season. But it definitely finished the same way, just having to make plays and we did that in the game.”
On the impact of the freshmen:
“I feel like every freshman helps us out in any type of way, if it’s cheering for the team in practice or on the floor and these two guys (Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden, Jr.) have helped me a lot throughout this year. (I had) to show them that when you come in as a freshman, Coach is going to be hard on you a lot of the time in practice, even in a game. They turned it (the season) around and played like they did and I’m just proud of them.”
On hearing the students chant at the end of the game:
“It’s just a great feeling. Usually we’re on the road; (we were) my first two years we won the Big 12 Championship. To be at home, hear the crowd and all the fans, it’s just a beautiful feeling. It shows the tradition of Kansas and obviously they care about us.”
Kansas freshman guard Andrew Wiggins
On his last three-point shot:
“In the second half I had to be aggressive; (I was) trying to get to the basket because my shot wasn’t falling early, trying to get my other teammates involved. Wayne (Selden, Jr.) found me in a good drive, and I just knocked it down.”
On his emotions after the final three:
“Just to win this whole championship, it’s a great feeling on the court from the start to the finish.”
Kansas freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr.
On expectations of competing in the Big 12 Conference:
“I feel like it’s something you know coming in. You come in here, that’s the standard here. You have to come out and compete and we were able to do that tonight.”
On getting past the Monday night loss at K-State:
“It was tough for some people because that game means a lot to a lot of people around here and we know that. So practice has been hard; we knew we had to prepare ourselves and get back on our feet and ready for the next game. Good teams never let one game decide how they are going to play the rest of the season.”
On focusing on the team rather than himself:
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be the freshmen that we going to win this; it was going to have to take everybody — from the 18th player on the bench to the first player on our bench — it has to take everybody to come together and do it.”
Oklahoma Head Coach Lon Kruger
“Really a hard fought game. I thought our guys battled like crazy and Kansas made big plays when they needed to make them. Certainly a great atmosphere. I thought we dug ourselves a bit of a hole there to start the ball game and ending the first half, but our guys were able to fight back and get back into it. We will learn. Every possession is just too significant. There were a few times that we didn’t complete a play and they converted on the other end. We have to learn to be a little stronger in those moments, but I’m proud of the guy’s effort. I thought we fought. We will grow from this, we will learn from it and I look forward to trying to get better for Texas on Saturday.”
On KU’s big runs during the game:
“Kansas is so tough here for a lot of reasons, Bill (Self) does a great job, they are very talented, the atmosphere is great and the difference is in the runs they make. That’s what you have to try to avoid. It’s easier said than done. I thought for the most part, we handled the ball well and made tough plays, but again, those two or three stretches, is why KU is so tough. We just gave them those moments of run that you have to try and avoid. We have to try and do a better job.”
On their defensive strategy:
“You are playing against one of the best teams in the country and they have a lot of weapons. I thought our big guys battled like crazy and didn’t win all the battles, but they were terrific on the inside. Tharpe is such a good player that if you get too spaced out, then he has the ability to hurt you. They are terrific, our guys have a great deal of respect for them and we will learn from this experience and try to get better.”
On Kansas winning its 10th-straight conference championship:
“It’s just a phenomenal accomplishment. It’s not like you are doing that in a bad league. They have done it in a very good league with a lot of good teams in the ten years. It is certainly a tribute to Bill and the job that he does and program in every way. There has only been a few longer streaks than that in the history, so that just shows how phenominal that streak is.”
Oklahoma Sophomore Forward Ryan Spangler
On the challenge playing in the post against Kansas:
“Yeah it’s fun, all their big guys that come in are great. They are athletic and you can’t let them beat you and get easy shots. It’s fun to battle with them. I lost some today but I will work on that and try not to let them get easy baskets like they did.”
Oklahoma Senior Guard Cameron Clark
On taking some big shots throughout the game:
“I made a couple shots; we (the team) made a couple shots. The main thing is that we didn’t take care of the ball in critical times. We have to learn from that and we know we are still growing and it’s just errors that we can get better on.”