No. 5 Kansas Takes Title Outright Despite Loss At OSU, 72-65

By: kuathletics.com
By: kuathletics.com

STILLWATER, Okla. — Though a better battle ensued in the second meeting between Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart – the duo combined for 30 second-half points – it was Smart and the Cowboys who erased a 10-point deficit to hand No. 5/6 Kansas the loss at Oklahoma State Saturday night inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, 72-65.

Losses by second-place Iowa State and Texas earlier in the evening put Kansas (22-7, 13-3 Big 12) in sole possession of the crown despite the Jayhawk loss. This made the "ESPN College GameDay" matchup, originally thought to be an epic meeting between the two teams voted to tie for first in the preseason coaches' poll, suddenly anti-climactic. Nevertheless, Oklahoma State (19-10, 7-9 Big 12) earned the must-win victory as it hunts for an NCAA Tournament berth, while Kansas cemented its unprecedented 57 total conference championships.

Prior to tip, Kansas also locked up the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, marking the 11th time in the league's history that the Jayhawks claimed the top seed.

On the court of his alma mater, Self coached the 700th game of his career. Self's 529 career wins rank eighth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches for the most wins in their first 700 games. Among active coaches, Self ranks third in the same span.

Wiggins led the Jayhawks with 15 points, 10 of which came in the second half, and added seven rebounds. Freshman center Joel Embiid nearly had his eighth double-double of the season locked up by halftime, thanks to his nine boards in the opening frame. He ended the night with 13 points and 13 rebounds, tying his career-high for the third time this season. Freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr. also added 13 points, while sophomore forward Perry Ellis rounded out the Jayhawk leaderboard with 11 points and eight rebounds.

Although Kansas dominated the rebounds column, 42-24, the Jayhawks were outdone from the floor. KU shot 40.4 percent (23-for-57) compared to OSU's 42.6 percent (20-for-47), even though the Cowboys were held to a season-low 24.0 percent in the opening frame.

After holding Smart to a single point on 0-of-7 shooting in the first half, Kansas surrendered 20 points to the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year in the last 20 minutes. He and senior guard Markel Brown each tallied a game-high 21 points and knocked down a combined 19-for-24 free throws. Junior guard Le'Bryan Nash followed suit with 16 points on the night. Together they led the charge that saw the home team erase a 52-42 deficit with 10:49 remaining in the game.
In the early goings, Embiid took his own steal coast-to-coast for a fastbreak layup, KU's second bucket in the first 45 seconds of the game. The Jayhawks quickly cooled, however, going scoreless for more than five minutes, while Oklahoma State answered with seven-straight points. By the second media timeout, KU had yet to hit double-figures and neither team held the hot-shooting hand.

KU's advantage on the glass kept Oklahoma State from acquiring many second chances, providing a window for the Jayhawk offense to catch up. A pair of free throws from Embiid and back-to-back scores from Wiggins and Selden sparked a 12-0 Kansas run, turning a 14-7 deficit into a 19-14 lead.

Both teams dragged themselves to halftime. Neither shot above 35 percent for the first 20 minutes, but KU held the home team to a season-low 24 percent (6-of-25) and kept Smart to a single point. A late layup from Ellis, his first points of the game, sent Kansas to halftime with a meager 26-25 lead.

Junior guard Naadir Tharpe snapped his scoring drought with a three-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half. Leading 38-35 lead with 15 minutes to play, Embiid's third foul leveled the rebounding playing field. Not a minute later, Wiggins, too, sat down with his third. Thus, the supporting cast became all the more crucial. Tharpe and Selden stepped in, both connecting from three-point territory to open a seemingly comfortable lead, 46-38. A three-point play from Ellis stretched it further.

An all-out battle under the basket resulted in a trio of offensive rebounds from senior forward Tarik Black and Wiggins. Relentlessly attacking the basket, Wiggins was rewarded with another trip to the free throw line. He sank them both and the Jayhawks found themselves up by 10, 52-42.

As expected in front of a jacked "ESPN College GameDay" crowd, the Cowboys charged back. Nash and Brown fueled a 7-0 OSU rally that promptly sliced the Jayhawk lead to three, 52-49. Free throws from Smart trimmed the Jayhawk edge to a single point with seven minutes on the clock, setting the table for an intense finish.

While the lead changed hands or was tied four times in the last five minutes, Oklahoma State took over when Smart drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key under the four-minute mark. Wiggins joined Smart on the high-pressure stage. He knocked a long jumper, drawing a foul on the shot and completed the three-point play to tie the game, 64-64.

But with less than a minute remaining, consecutive layups from Smart ultimately sealed the game. A free throw from Selden was the last point of the night for Kansas as OSU's lead spread from two points to five with 24 ticks on the clock. Brown hit the last free throws of the night and blocked a final Kansas three-point attempt. Court storming ensued as Oklahoma State claimed the 72-65 victory.

UP NEXT
Kansas 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. KU will honor senior players Tarik Black, Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley and managers Corey Wacknov and Neal Stineman.

GAME NOTES
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (26/26), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (29/29), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (29/29), So. Perry Ellis (29/32), Fr. Joel Embiid (20/20)

SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 108-55

ATTENDANCE: 13,611 (sellout)

KANSAS' WIN…
Due to Texas and Iowa State losing on Saturday, Kansas still claimed the outright Big 12 regular-season title, the 10th-straight crown for the Jayhawks and the 14th in the 18-year existence of the league. Overall, Kansas has collected 57 conference titles, the most in NCAA history.
Dropped KU to 22-7 on the season, against the nation's most difficult strength of schedule, and 13-3 in Big 12 play.
Pushed the all-time series record to 108-55 in favor of KU. The Jayhawks are now 33-32 inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Made Self 12-9 all-time against his alma mater (11-6 at KU), 322-66 while at Kansas and 529-171 overall.
Made KU 2,123-819 all-time.

TEAM NOTES
KU outrebounded OSU, 42-24, marking the ninth time in Big 12 play – and 14th time overall – that the Jayhawks' held a double digit rebounding margin. OSU's three offensive rebounds were the fewest allowed by a Jayhawk opponent this season.
For the first time this season, Kansas lost after leading at halftime. KU is now 20-1 when leading at the break this season.
The Jayhawks led by 10 points (52-42) with 10:49 to play, marking the largest blown lead Kansas has given up in a loss this season (9 vs. Villanova; 9 at Colorado).
Kansas held Oklahoma State to 25 points on 6-of-25 shooting in the first half, tying season-lows for points and field goals in a half, while setting a new low in field goal percentage in a stanza (24.0).
Oklahoma State's 47 points in the second half are the most Kansas has surrendered in a single half in conference play since giving up 48 – also to the Cowboys – in the second half on Jan. 18.
Individually, OSU sophomore G Marcus Smart was held to a single point in the first half, missing all seven of the shots he took. He put up 20 second-half points on 5-of-7 shooting.
KU chalked up two baskets in the first 45 seconds before going completely silent for more than five minutes (19:15-13:47). Almost seven minutes separated the Jayhawks' field goals (19:15-12:32).
·Freshman G Wayne Selden Jr.'s layup at the 12:32 mark immediately turned the tables. The Cowboys without a field goal for more than seven minutes (12:17 – 4:51) During which, Kansas reclaimed the lead with a 12-0 run powered by freshmen Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Selden.
Oklahoma State outscored Kansas 30-13 in the last 10:05 of the game.
KU's eight steals tied a conference season-high, while the three blocks tied an overall season-low.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES
Head coach Bill Self coached the 700th game of his career on Saturday. He checks in eighth all-time among NCAA Division I coaches with his ???? career wins through 700 games. Hall of Fame Kentucky coach Adolf Rupp ranks first in NCAA with 593 wins in the same span. Among active coaches, Self ranks third behind North Carolina's Roy Williams (566) and Kentucky's John Calipari (538) and in front of fifth-place Jim Boeheim (522) of Syracuse.
The Cowboys held freshman G Andrew Wiggins to just three points in KU's win over Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 18 – not so on Saturday. He led the four Jayhawks in double-figures with 15 points.
Wiggins now has 472 points on the year, right behind Xavier Henry's (483, 2010) for third-place position on the all-time Kansas freshmen scoring list.
Wiggins also holds the KU freshmen record for free throws made (136), free throws attempted (179) and scoring average (16.3).
Freshman C Joel Embiid added to his Kansas freshman blocks record with one on Saturday. He now has 72 for the season.
Embiid has now blocked at least one shot in 22-straight games in which he has played.
Embiid pulled down nine rebounds by halftime, more than doubling any other player on the floor. He finished his night with 13, tying a career-high for the third time this year.
Embiid now has 227 rebounds on the year, bringing him closer to Raef LaFrentz (231, 1995) for fourth all-time by a KU freshman.
Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. was the first Jayhawk to reach double figures, needing eight minutes into the second half to do so. He ended the game with 13 points and tallied multiple three-pointers for the 10th time this season, second only to junior G Naadir Tharpe's 11 times. Tharpe also hit two threes.
Sophomore F Jamari Traylor has missed only eight shots in 16 conference games, making him 29-of-37 in Big 12 games this season for a 78.4 shooting percentage.

QUOTES
KU head coach Bill Self
On the high amount of turnovers:
"I think it was more us tonight than them. They did a good job of jumping up in passing lanes and things like that, but they were more poor plays than they were good plays. I thought they did a good job guarding us, don't get me wrong, but most of our turnovers I think were more self-inflicted than them pressuring us into making mistakes."

On if OSU getting to the bonus early was a big factor:
"Yeah, but we fouled. I'm not complaining about them getting in early, because we fouled. They were in the bonus in the first six or seven minutes of the second half. It's always tough. It takes away your aggressiveness whenever the other team is shooting free throws early. They're a good free-throw shooting team, as evidenced by them going 27-of-33 tonight."

On if OSU looked like a team playing for its life at the end:
"I thought they played really well the last 10 minutes of the game. The first half, I thought both defenses were pretty good. I thought neither team played very well, and it was pretty ugly. The second half, both teams made a few shots. Markel (Brown) jumped up and hit a couple, and then of course Marcus (Smart) made a couple. I don't want to get into what another team is, because I'm not an expert on other teams, but they played really hard and competed really hard the last 10 minutes or so."

On if it surprises him how much Markel Brown has improved:
"No. Not at all. I don't know if you've followed it, but Markel Brown has been a Jayhawk killer. Last year he made five threes against us at our place in the first half, and this year he made five threes against us. Today he gets 21. That doesn't surprise me at all. He's gotten better all the time. He's a good player. He could be a pro."

KU sophomore forward Perry Ellis
On what happened down the stretch:
"We stopped getting stops. We weren't playing good defense and that was the key to getting more stops."

On Marcus Smart:
"He was competing and playing hard. He played really well tonight."

On what was the message after the last game:
"He mentioned it, but we were more focused on this game. But it's over now, we have to go to the next game."

On if they felt like it slipped away:
"Definitely, because we had them but we couldn't get any stops, but we had a lot of rebounds late in the game."

On if they were focused on winning the conference championship:
"We just wanted to come in and not focus on that, but just focus on winning. We weren't focused on that."

KU freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr.
On if they were concerned about turnovers building up:
"We weren't concerned. We came out rebounding aggressively and attacking the way we should have. We just gave them the ball."

On what was the difference in the game:
"We just weren't aggressive. We weren't getting stop, that was the biggest thing."

On Marcus Smart:
"We knew he was going to come to play tonight and we didn't do the best job on him in the second half."


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