Kansas Jayhawks defeat Oklahoma Sooners
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They played 55 minutes of beautiful basketball over three hours on a cold winter night. They took 182 shots, made nearly half their three-pointers, committed but 30 turnovers and saw only one player foul out despite hounding defense.
This game had the brute force of bodies slamming to the floor, hard enough you could feel the impact on your feet sitting curtsied, but also the delicate ballet of a Jordan Woodard pass thrown perfectly through a swarm of sprinting bodies, Mason spinning 360 degrees before tossing an ally-oop to Wayne Selden, and Hield putting on one of the great performances you will ever see in college basketball.
After all of that, KU won in the final seconds of the third overtime, on one of the sport's simplest plays — an inbound pass. Oklahoma trailed by one with 12 seconds left, plenty of time to set up a good shot on a night when even bad shots were going in. Hield was standing in front of the scorer's table, a particularly cramped space between the padding around the advertisement boards and the sideline.
Depending on exactly where the table is set, a player has the width of 10 wooden boards to stand and find his angle. A crude measurement after the game showed it to be two feet, and probably less.
Mason listened to the referee tell him to give Hield space. Then, Mason ignored the man. When the referee handed Hield the ball, Mason took a step closer, bothering the OU star. Hield would later say he misread the movement of teammate Isaiah Cousins, picking the wrong angle for the pass. Either way, Mason tipped it away, ran down the deflection, drew a foul and hit two free throws.
"A ridiculous play," Self said.
It was easy to wonder if Mason had violated a rule by breaking the plane of the sideline, but Hield did not complain. Kruger was a few feet from the play, and said he didn't have a problem with it. This is one of those tiny advantages that coaches seek and exploit.
Particularly at KU, with sideline space so cramped, players are instructed to exaggerate their pressure on the in-bounder. If anything, the referee might stop and make the defender move back, but even that is extremely rare.
"That's something we talk about as a team," Mason said. "It so happened to work right there at the end."
That was one play out of a thousand, and when they replay this game on television we'll all remember the other plays that could've decided this one. Mason got to the rim at the end of regulation, but didn't get what looked like a clear foul. Then Khadeem Lattin missed a free throw with 2 seconds left. Overtime.
Ellis airballed a good look with 2 seconds left, and Selden missed a wide open three-pointer at the buzzer. Now double overtime. Both teams missed their last four shots in the second overtime. Now triple overtime.
"We both had chances to win," Hield said. "Both teams."
KC Star Mellinger
This was the aftermath of a classic, a survival contest in a basketball cathedral, the sort of game that hangs in that murky, undefined layer of instant history. When it was over, Kansas coach Bill Self stood in the locker room and told his players that they needed to proud. It really didn’t matter who had won, he said. They had all been part of something special.
“If we would have lost the game, I would have walked in the locker room and said: ‘Well, you’ll never forget this one. Be proud that you were a part of it,’ ” Self said.
When it was over, Kansas was 13-1 and 2-0 in the Big 12, handing Oklahoma its first loss. Hours after ascending to the top of the AP Poll for the first time since February 2011, the Jayhawks could make a claim as college basketball’s rightful No. 1.
When it was over, Kansas' pint-sized savior sat in a chair, letting his feet cool off.
“Craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Mason said.
…Of course, there really was no stopping Hield on Monday night. But Mason sought the assignment. He chased, and he grappled and he jockeyed for position, trying to keep a hand in Hield’s face. Nothing seemed to work. Hield kept hitting tough shots, and he kept finding open shots on offensive rebounds. The sight of Hield lighting up Allen Fieldhouse caused Self to think back to Kevin Durant, the former Texas star who had hit Kansas with 25 points during the first half of a 32-point performance in 2007.
"He could have got 60 if Frank wasn't guarding him,” Self said.
So, yes, there was really nothing left to try. Hield stood on the sideline, ready to in-bound the ball. Mason thought back to practice here inside Allen Fieldhouse, where the Kansas staff spends time each season emphasizing these situations.
“In Allen Fieldhouse, there’s no room on the side,” Self would say. “So guys can’t back up. So we try to make an emphasis on out-of-bounds, to try to steal it. And we were dead exhausted, I’m shocked that we were able to do it.”
As Hield threw the in-bounds pass, Mason got his left hand on the ball. It bounced a few feet away. He pounced again. Mason drew a foul and converted two free throws. Hield missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer. Allen Fieldhouse reveled in the moment.
…Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger called it the best game of which he ever has been a part. ("Other than the result, of course.”) Self compared it to the Jayhawks’ come-from-behind victory in the final Border War in 2012. Hield spent part of his postgame doing an interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter — after a loss. How often do you see that?
“January 4th is too early to be having games like this,” Self said.
As Hield concluded his interview on the Allen Fieldhouse floor, a group of Kansas fans, sitting in the bleachers behind him, rose to their feet and applauded. That was Monday night inside Allen Fieldhouse, Self said. The kind of game you don’t want to end — even if you really do.
“He said: ‘This will be a game that you never want to end,” said Graham, remembering Self’s pregame speech. “Then it ended up going into three overtimes, and then we actually wanted it to end.”
Houston, we have lift off.
The national champion will be crowned in the Texas city in a few months, and Monday's game between No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma could have been a preview.
…In a season in which everyone has been searching for a favorite, the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country more than made the case that they belong just where they are. There were too many hero plays, too many big shots.
It was an instant classic. Welcome to college basketball season, everyone.
…Bill Self has called his backcourt the biggest difference-makers on this team and the smallest players showed just how big they are in this one. Devonte' Graham, who played almost too frenetically early, hit the go-head free throws and then Frank Mason III, his backcourt mate, sealed the victory for Kansas, swiping an Oklahoma inbounds pass.
Mason is a flat-out bulldog. He didn't shoot well, didn't score a lot of points, but he calmly directed the Jayhawks through this game on the offensive end and tried to stick with Buddy Hield on the defensive end. Sticking with Hield is near impossible, not to mention exhausting, but Mason didn't let it change his attack on offense. He dished out six assists, pulled down seven rebounds and ultimately won the game with his toughness.
Buddy Hield’s last-gasp three-point shot missed and finally, after three overtimes, Kansas University’s No 1-ranked basketball team had won a game of the ages, a 109-106, thriller over No. 2 Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s a wonder Hield’s shot clanged, considering his 46 points, yes 46 points, on Monday matched Kansas State’s Mike Wroblewski for highest scoring output in a game by a KU foe in Allen Fieldhouse in school history.
Wroblewski’s mark came way back in 1962.
That’s right, 1962.
“Buddy is awesome. He’s a great player. He can score from anywhere ... but we wanted it so bad,” said KU senior forward Perry Ellis, who responded with 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks in the first three-OT game in fieldhouse lore.
“It’s the toughest game I’ve ever played. We never stopped fighting,” Ellis added.
Once the thriller ended, freshman Cheick Diallo stood on the press table and waved wildly to the fans while other players and coaches slapped five and hugged as they headed out the northwest tunnel to the locker room.
Who wanted this wild, wonderful wacky basketball game to end? The Sooners and the Jayhawks, each sporting a No. 1 ranking, could have played all night Monday and it would have been just fine with America. And they dang near did.
Alas, all great things must come to an end, and this one did when the valiant Sooners, who hadn't substituted in more than 20 game minutes, finally wilted in the final 50 seconds. Kansas escaped 109-106 in what ranks as one of the most memorable games in the history of Allen Fieldhouse.
Buddy Hield tied the Allen Fieldhouse record for points by an opponent, with 46. But of course, the Phog is only 61 years old. This being the haunt of Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Hield paid for such a night. He committed turnovers on two straight possessions in the final 20 seconds, then missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“You don't win in here very often, so we'd have liked that for them,” Kruger said.
But there's no other cost. Heck, the Sooners' stock has to go up after this game. Go on the road, stay alive through three overtimes against AP's No. 1 team and a program that has won 11 straight Big 12 championships, fight the roar of 16,000 Rock Chalkers who made Allen Fieldhouse as loud as it's ever been, and OU's NCAA championship hopes went up Monday night. We knew the Sooners were for real. Now we know they're really for real.
The Oklahoman Tramel
Allen Fieldhouse was the center of the sports universe Monday night and 16,300 hoarse voices will be telling the truth when they say they witnessed it live, hung on every shot, every whistle, every lead change. Another 50,000 will lie and say they were there. Eventually, they’ll believe their own lies and nobody will call them on it.
I was there and I still have the goosebumps to prove it. And yes, I’m bragging about being there.
Mutual respect shown immediately after the game was easy to spot as sweaty bodies embraced. Kansas coach Bill Self, so awed by Hield’s performance, slapped hands with Hield, pinned a big hug on him and then patted him on the back of the neck. Vitale let Hield know how blown away he was by him.
Hield and Mason congratulated each other on jobs well done.
Kansas fans let Hield know what they thought of him by sending him off the floor with a standing ovation.
“He deserved it,” Ellis said.
So did KU's senior forward from Wichita.
Ellis made a number of clutch shots to bring Kansas back from an eight-point deficit and hit three-pointers, baby hooks, turn-around hooks — you name it, he made it — on his way to 27 points and 13 rebounds in 53 minutes.
“I don’t know if scoring-wise it was one of my best games, but heart-wise, confidence-wise, it was,” Ellis said.
Perry Ellis is a man of few words, and nobody would have blamed him if Monday night's instant classic between top-ranked Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma had rendered the senior forward speechless.
Instead, Ellis perfectly described how the Jayhawks pulled it off: "Just heart."
"All of us together," Ellis said after his team's 109-106, triple-overtime victory in a matchup of national title contenders. "There were so many plays going both ways. We just kept fighting."
Buddy Hield comes into the game rated by some as the likely player of the year in the country. All he did was score 46 points to tie the Allen Fieldhouse record by an opponent and did so taking 23 shots.
Two Oklahoma forwards, Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin, combined for 24 points and 32 rebounds and each recorded double-doubles.
Jordan Woodard decided that being Hield’s wingman has its perks. He poured in 27 points and distributed a game-high seven assists.
Those four players combined to play 201 minutes.
Know how many minutes can be shared among a team’s players in a regulation game? 200.
But this was no regulation game. No regular game, either. It went three overtimes. To finish it, Kansas needed to create turnovers, make free throws and keep the sellout crowd stirred into a frenzy.
Checklist completed, Kansas nipped Oklahoma 109-106 in triple-overtime. All those heroics by all those Sooners resulted in the most points by a visiting team ever in Allen Fieldhouse.
Yet Oklahoma lost.
If you did not record it, find it, play through the commercials, through Dicky V., and through any interference you get from loved ones uninterested. Shame on them. The game was a classic, two games into the Big 12 schedule.
It the first time in the Self-era that Kansas was a part of a triple overtime game.
Monday’s triple overtime thriller more than lived up to the hype of highly touted No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting. It was the first such matchup in Allen Fieldhouse since 1990. Kansas had lost all four previous meetings of the top two teams in college basketball.
Hield certainly did his part in attempt to hand the Jayhawks a fifth loss. The senior guard scored 46 points, tied for the highest scoring output by a visiting player in Allen Fieldhouse. Hield was 13-of-23 from the floor, including 8-of-15 from long range.
“I just hate losing. No matter how good I do, I believe I could have done better,” Hield said. “I hate the fact that we came up with a loss, and this is my last time playing in this building. It sucks going 0-4 here.”
Self picked up his first technical foul of the season with four seconds to play in the period, coming to the defense of his point guard, Frank Mason III, who was whistled for a foul after appearing to record a clean block on Hield.
Mason reacted to the call with as much emotion as he’d ever shown in a Kansas uniform, having to be corralled by sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham before Self stepped in to take the heat from the official and, ultimately, the technical.
At that point, Self decided enough was enough. He needed to make a change in how the team was guarding Hield. He had attempted to use the length of players like Wayne Selden Jr. and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to frustrate Hield, albeit to no avail.
As the team headed to the locker room, Self decided Graham was going to be the one to guard Hield in the second half, noting that Graham really hadn’t done that much in the first period and could instead be used primarily for his defense.
Mason had another plan in mind.
“I told the guys I wanted to guard [Hield],” Mason said. “I told my teammates, coaches, everyone. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Even after playing 18 minutes in the first half, Mason felt like he needed to do more. In the ensuing 35 minutes of action, for all of which Mason remained on the court, he brought with him a tenacious intensity, as Kansas won 109-106.
“They call him the bulldog for a reason,” Graham said. “[It was in] the way Frank battled with [Hield] and got him out of a rhythm.”
Self concurred. He complemented Mason’s toughness and defense and credited him for fighting throughout the game. However, he disagreed with Graham in one area: the nickname.
“He’s a pitbull,” Self said.
…As a junior, Mason has become the unquestioned leader of the Jayhawks — the soon to be No. 1 ranked basketball team in the country. He understands what his teammates need out of him, and he does what he can to provide that night after night.
And still, after a 53-minute marathon that left him exhausted, Mason is hungry. He’s ready to get back on the court; he’s ready to take on Oklahoma one more time.
“I’m good. I can play an extra two or three overtimes right now,” Mason said. “It doesn’t matter how much time you put on the clock. I feel like I can keep playing.”
It's difficult, by definition, for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown to exceed expecations.
But Oklahoma-Kansas somehow did it Monday night.
I mean it really, really did it.
Final: No. 1 Kansas 109, No. 2 Oklahoma 106.
And it took three -- three! -- overtimes to settle things.
"Toughest game I've ever played in," said Kansas senior Perry Ellis, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds and still wasn't even close to the star of the game.
We learned several things Monday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but the biggest thing that stood out was that these teams deserve to play three more times this season.
The Jayhawks will travel to Norman on Feb. 13th and then there's always the possibility that these two squads hook up again during the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City and potentially in the field of 68 if the match ups align the right way.
The Big 12 is as strong is as strong as its ever been from top to bottom, but Kansas and Oklahoma look like they're a cut above the rest.
If you were looking live at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, you were treated to the college basketball game of the year, one of the top college basketball games of the decade and perhaps one of the best No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups since a duo from 1974, when Notre Dame snapped UCLA 88-game winning streak during the regular season and then, two months later, No. 1 N.C. State beat No. 2 UCLA in double overtime in the NCAA tournament. It was No. 1 Kansas (in the AP poll) vs. No. 1 Oklahoma (in the USA TODAY Coaches’ poll), which was odd enough, but was also the rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 game (both team were No. 2 in the poll in which they weren’t No. 1) conference game that didn’t feature Duke and North Carolina.
The whole thing was a sublime 55 minutes of basketball. There were more ebbs and flows than a Tarantino whodunnit. Just when you thought you knew what would happen, you were proven wrong, and then again and again. There were, of course, controversial calls, techs, big shots, missed free throws, made free throws and majestic individual play. It was everything you hope you’ll get when you flip on any sort of sporting event.
…In short, it’s almost guaranteed that nothing that happens on the NFL’s wild-card weekend will come close to touching the passion, excitement and exhaustion of one of the biggest Big Monday games ESPN has ever had the privilege of airing.
…The death of college basketball has been completely exaggerated. Oklahoma and Kansas didn’t prove this on Monday night, they simply reaffirmed it. Oh, and if you missed it, they’ll do it again on Feb. 13, this time from Norman. Set your DVR now.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”
Big 12/College News
3. But the Big 12 still runs through Lawrence: That ain’t changing until someone makes it change, and Oklahoma came very close to doing in on Monday. The way to win a regular season conference title, particularly in a league with a double round-robin like the Big 12, is to defend your home court against everyone and to pick off enough opponents on the road that you finish atop the standings. As I wrote earlier, Kansas simply doesn’t lose games at home, and while they may end up losing four or five games on the road in a given season, they have a margin for error because … no one beats them in the Phog.
Oklahoma had the chance on Monday. They missed out on it, and now we’re looking at a situation where Kansas is, once against, in driver’s seat in the league title race.
Big 12 Composite Schedule
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube
If you made it this far today I just want to apologize for the extended hiatus. Sometimes life trumps hobbies for my attention. So thanks for hanging in there with me and Rock Chalk!