Kansas drops Finale in Norman Despite Valiant Effort

THE GAME:

It may have been “meaningless” in terms of seeding, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. The Kansas Jayhawks were playing without three scholarship players. Perry Ellis, the team’s leading scorer, was out with a knee injury. Cliff Alexander missed yet another game with the ongoing questions about his eligibility. Brannen Greene was suspended for the game; Bill Self cited “irresponsible behavior” as the reasoning.

Kansas had already clinched their 11th Big 12 title outright. The Jayhawks went on the road to face a top-15 team without three of its top seven players in minutes. This matchup was originally assumed to be crucial to a Big 12 race when the schedule came out, but because of Kansas already clinching the crown, facing the second-best team in the Big 12 had no impact for KU in the standings. But considering how hard (and well) the team played, it felt like it did.

The Jayhawks started the game off strong, gaining a 4-0 lead, but soon fell behind as Oklahoma made a run. The game stayed close throughout the remainder of the half. Kansas found themselves down 10 with three minutes left before intermission, only to fight back and cut the lead to two going into halftime.

The game continued its high-paced tempo in the second half. Every time Oklahoma would make a quick run, the Jayhawks would do the same to close the gap. The entire second half was played in between an Oklahoma lead of seven and a Kansas lead of two. Eventually, the Jayhawks took the lead at 61-60 on a Devonte’ Graham layup with just under six minutes to play, but Oklahoma would snatch it back on the next possession. That would turn out to be the final time Oklahoma trailed.

Kansas found themselves trailing 71-66 with 29 seconds left, and Frank Mason made two free throws to close the gap. After a weird Oklahoma turnover, Mason again penetrated the paint and was fouled again, and he sank both free throws to cut the deficit to one. Following two made Oklahoma foul shots, Kansas found itself trailing by three with eight seconds remaining.

That’s when things got weird. Wayne Selden fired a baseball-type pass the length of the floor to Landen Lucas, who then flipped the ball to Mason, as he had been streaking down the floor since the first pass was made. Mason went up for the game-tying three, but was fouled on the shot because of an Oklahoma defensive breakdown, sending him to the line with a chance to tie.

Mason, who was 11-12 from the stripe against West Virginia, proceeded to knock down all three shots to tie the game. He finished the game 9-9 from the line, and KU’s last seven points all came from his foul shots. The game was tied, and Kansas needed just one stop to take the Sooners into overtime.

Unfortunately, that shot didn’t materialize. In what was a pitiful defensive possession, Oklahoma went straight down the court with Jordan Woodard missing a layup that Buddy Hield was able to tip in right before the buzzer sounded. Three Jayhawk players stood and watched Woodard’s shot roll around; not one of them thought to box out Hield, who simply raced in, leapt, and tapped the ball in with 0.2 seconds left.

It was the second time in three weeks that the Jayhawks needed a stop on an opponent’s final possession, and broke down on defense to allow a game-winning bucket.

THE REFEREES:

The officiating in the game was called into question a few times by fans of both teams, most notably in the last few possessions.

In KU’s final possession, the foul called Mason’s three-point shot was a close call. There was question on whether enough contact was made for a foul to be called. Contact was certainly minimal, but Mason did have his leg grabbed. There is a new rule that a player cannot foul a jump shooter, so even though there appeared to be very little contact, the referees made the correct call.

In OU’s final possession, there were multiple officiating questions.

First, there was a no-call on a reach by Kelly Oubre. It appeared Oubre reached in and fouled Jordan Woodard. I believe there was enough contact to be a foul, but because it was in the closing seconds of the game, the referees let it go. Another question mark occurred on Woodard’s drive. It looked like he may have taken three steps and traveled. However, the new gather-step rule makes it not a travel. As he picks up the ball and lands on his left foot, that is his “gather step.” He then takes his allowed two steps before shooting the ball. It appears that this was also the correct call, despite the anguish from Kansas fans.

There was also a complaint about Hield’s buzzer-beating tip-in being an over-the-back. There was no box-out established by any Kansas player, so it is likely never called a foul. Coupled with being in the final seconds, there is no way an over the back would be called there. It’s very simple for Kansas – if Frank Mason or any of the other Jayhawks in the vicinity would have put a body on Buddy Hield, the game nearly certainly goes to overtime.

THE TAKEAWAY:

Kansas played very well on the road against the second best team in the Big 12, even without their leading scorer and two other regular rotation players. Wayne Selden played just one possession in the second half due to a sore ankle, so actually, four of KU’s top seven players were all either out or severely limited. This game was very encouraging, as Kansas almost pulled out a road win against great competition while playing shorthanded. Any questions about this team’s “heart” should be gone after the West Virginia comeback and now this effort. At the same time, last-second defensive breakdowns and allowing offensive rebounds continue to plague the Jayhawks.

THE STATS:

  • Mason: career-high 21 points with 9-9 free throw shooting. People talked about giving him a “rest.” He played a KU-high 34 minutes.
  • Oubre: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block. He also played terrific defense against Hield. He held the Big 12 scoring leader to just 6-20 from the floor.
  • Lucas: 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 33 minutes. All career-bests..
  • Traylor: 12 points and 2 blocks.
  • Selden: 0-7 from the floor. He was clearly bothered by his gimpy ankle.
  • Mickelson: 5 points, all from the charity stripe, and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.
  • Graham: 8 points on 3-14 from the floor. His 14 shots led the team. He also played a career-high 29 minutes.
  • Svi: 2 points in 13 minutes. That’s the most he’s played since the second Big 12 game of the year, and his first score since the TCU road game back on January 28.
  • Kansas: 5-15 three pointers, 33%. That is better than 0.
  • KU had 11 turnovers, Oklahoma had 9.
  • Oklahoma and KU both shot 38% from the floor, 33% from 3, and snagged 44 rebounds. That’s how close this game was.
  • Kansas had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, but only gathered two after intermission. Oklahoma grabbed a season-best 18 offensive boards, which continues to plague Kansas.
  • The Jayhawks have surrendered 39 offensive rebounds in their last two games. That’s what happens when Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander don’t play.
  • The Sooners came up with a steal on 8 of KU’s 11 turnovers, while Kansas only came up with 3 steals. Ball-handling continues to be a question mark for this team going forward.
  • Third straight season that Kansas has lost the final game of the regular season. What’s up with that?

THE TWEETS:

Dylan King

Staff writer for Rock Chalk Blog. http://twitter.com/_DK22