With the Big 12 title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament all but locked up, Kansas went into a wild environment in Stillwater to play a virtual meaningless game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. They responded by winning yet another road game, finishing off the Cowboys in an offensive shootout, 90-85.
It’s the first time KU has won in Stillwater since February 2013. Naadir Tharpe hit a game-winning floater in the final moments that night, at the tail end of double overtime, in a victory that helped Kansas win its ninth straight league title. It really has been that long.
The No. 1 Jayhawks (28-3) close out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
Saturday’s contest started with guns firing, and it wasn’t Pistol Pete taking shots. Both squads put on a scoring clinic with an array of threes and transition layups. Frank Mason and Jeffrey Carroll each started with a three pointer. Mason scored 11 first-half points to lead the team, which took a 43-40 lead into the locker room. Defense was virtually non-existent for either team in the early going, but questionable calls by the officiating crew prompted the Gallagher-Iba crowd to let out a pair of vicious boos. The loudness of the displeasure would rival even Iowa State on a night when things are getting chippy.
You’d think that all of the first half scoring magic would slow down, but the second half started with even more fireworks. Phil Forte has been giving the Jayhawks nightmares for years, and with two early threes in the second half, those memories came back and slapped Bill Self in the face. Although, Kansas remained poised and confident and with the senior leadership of guard Frank Mason, the Jayhawks held on to a five-point advantage. Kansas and Oklahoma State were scoring points back and forth, thanks in part to a few seasoned veterans in Frank Mason and Jawun Evans. The two had combined for 45 points, 12 rebounds and 21 assists with five minutes left to play.
At times when you could feel a Kansas run coming, the Pokes would close the gap on a couple of scoring possessions. The Jayhawks still held onto their lead, though, up 77-70 with six minutes left in the contest. The finish of this game would be close, but like the rest of the night, Kansas held on just long enough, pulling off a thrilling 90-85 victory. Oklahoma State led for less than a minute in the contest.
Kansas officially avenged its three-game losing streak in Stillwater. The Jayhawks went an improbable 10-1 in road games this season.
Early in the second half, Frank Mason officially became a top-10 scorer in Kansas history by making a three-pointer. He’s up to 1,767 career points, which is one away from tying Paul Pierce for 9th on the all-time list.
You gotta give it to the Jayhawks. A team coming off of an emotional senior night win against Oklahoma, a 12-point comeback to be exact, could still linger. But the team had composure, and it never had to battle from behind this go round. Frank Mason, the frontrunner for the National Player of the Year award, extended his pedigree, nearly netting a triple-double: 27 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
No. 1 Kansas wraps up its regular season, finishing 28-3 overall, 16-2 in conference play. They will now head to Sprint Center in Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament, where the Jayhawks will play the winner of No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 8 TCU’s Wednesday night game. The contest will be at 1:30 pm on Thursday, March 9. Assuming the Jayhawks pick up a win in that contest, they will face No. 5 Oklahoma State (again) or No. 4 Iowa State in Friday night’s semifinal.
- Frank Mason: 27 points (9/16 FG), nine assists, and eight rebounds in 36 minutes. He’s the Player of the Year in all senses.
- Josh Jackson: 17 points (8/11 FG), nine rebounds, and five assists in 33 minutes. Mason’s big game will get all of the headlines, but Jackson was tremendous.
- Devonte’ Graham: 13 points (4/12 FG) and four assists in 39 minutes. His defense on Phil Forte was stellar.
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 3 points (1/2 FG) in just 12 minutes. It’s the third straight game that Svi has set a new season low for minutes played. He hasn’t made multiple baskets in a game since February 22. He didn’t start the second half. We’ll see what happens Thursday.
- Landen Lucas: 10 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. My goodness, is he important. He is this team’s anchor.
- Lagerald Vick: 9 points (3/8 FG) and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. He’s probably deserving of a starting spot, at this point.
- Carlton Bragg: 11 points in 18 minutes, which is the most he’s played since December. That’s twice now in the last four games that he’s stepped up off the bench. Good to see.
- Jawun Evans had 22 points and a whopping 15 assists, and Jeffrey Carroll had 27 points for Oklahoma State.
- Kansas shot 56% from the floor, 43% from three, and 77% from the line.
- Rebounds: KU 42, Oklahoma State 30.
- KU closes out the regular season 28-3 overall. Its 16 league wins tie the most for any team in the history of conference play.