The Kansas-Marcus Smart era is finally over.
Kansas defeated Oklahoma State, 77-70, in the Big 12 quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon. It took overtime, but the Jayhawks were able to get it done. By getting the third and final win in Marcus Smart’s tenure at Oklahoma State, Kansas doesn’t have to worry about his flopping or back flips anymore.
Yesterday’s quarterfinal felt more like a Big 12 championship game rather than a quarterfinal (as did K-State vs. Iowa State, especially compared to the games in session three).
It took a superhuman performance from Andrew Wiggins on offense and defense to get the win. Wiggins’ stat line: 30 points on nine-for-17 shooting, eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and one block in 45 minutes. Wiggins’ 30-points were the most by a Jayhawk in the Big 12 tournament since Wayne Simien scored 31 in 2004.
In Wiggins’ last two-games, he has combined for 71 points which is the most by a Jayhawk in consecutive games since at least 1988-1989. Before then, Kansas didn’t keep track of this stat.
With the exception of some really awful turnovers, Kansas played great on Thursday. That’s the type of performance that will most postseason games. The Jayhawks had 14 turnovers in the game compared to Oklahoma State’s five. That’s the only stat that greatly favored the Cowboys. KU dominated the boards, 46-30, mainly because KU did a great job on the defensive boards and had great first shot defense (credit Tarik Black for this who had 11 defensive rebounds and 12 total).
Outside of Wiggins’ performance, this game was won at the free throw line. KU shot 22-for-29 from the FT line while the Cowboys were 14-for-19. KU was 8-for-12 in overtime, alone. Wiggins, Selden and Tharpe combined for 18-for-23 from the charity stripe. If they can continue that (especially Wiggins who got to the line for 10 free throws), Kansas is going to be tough to beat.
KU played exceptional defense on Oklahoma State. That was the biggest difference in between the game in Stillwater and the game in Kansas City on Thursday. Le’Bryan Nash was Oklahoma State’s best scoring threat yesterday (especially in the second half as he led the comeback) and he had 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting. Marcus Smart was guarded by Selden primarily and for whatever reason, settled for a lot of jump shots. Smart, was 4-for-14 from the field and led the team with seven free throw attempts. Markel Brown, who has been scary good lately, was only 5-for-13 from the field. Phil Forte, their three-point specialist was 4-for-12 from three and only had one other field goal.
The biggest concern heading into this game was how KU would replace Joel Embiid’s production. Perry Ellis went for nine points and eight rebounds while Tarik Black had seven points and 12 rebounds. Jamari Traylor had the most surprising performance with six points and nine rebounds (tying his career-high). Traylor also stepped up his defensive game. Landen Lucas was the only disappointment in the back court as he picked up three fouls in four minutes, didn’t score and only had one rebound.
If the Jayhawks can match this defensive performance on Friday night, Iowa State won’t drop 80+ points like they did on Kansas State on Thursday afternoon. KU was able to stop Oklahoma State’s big three and now they must stop the Cyclones’ big three of Ejim, Kane and Niang.