No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks Hold Off No. 3 Oklahoma Again, Top Sooners 76-72
Photo Courtesy of kansascity.com

The last time the Kansas Jayhawks took on the Oklahoma Sooners, the Jayhawks were ranked #1 in the nation with the Sooners right behind them at #2. That game was an instant classic as the Jayhawks came out on top in a triple overtime marathon, edging their Big 12 rivals by a score of 109-106.

With the two teams playing again Saturday, it was widely accepted that there was no way this game would live up to the standards set by the first matchup between these two top-tier squads. 

However, Kansas was happy with this game too. 

The Jayhawks got 27 points from Devonte' Graham to edge the Sooners once more, by a score of 76-72. And though the game wasn't as thrilling as their first meeting of the season, the close game provided plenty of excitement for the fans with electric players like Graham and Oklahoma's Buddy Hield dominating the court on Saturday afternoon. 

Jayhawks Jump Out To Early Lead

After Oklahoma's Khadeem Lattin got the game's first points on a pair of free throws, it was pretty much all Kansas for the first ten minutes. Graham poured in a three pointer to start the points parade for Kansas, the first of six straight points for the Jayhawks. Oklahoma got a jumper from Isaiah Cousins to cut the deficit to 6-4 but Perry Ellis knocked down a three for the Jayhawks to quash any momentum for Oklahoma.

Down 10-4, Oklahoma looked like it might get some momentum when Lattin jammed in a big dunk to cut the lead to 10-6, but Kansas went on to rip off ten straight points. Frank Mason III dished off an assist for two points for Kansas, then made a layup of his own on the Jayhawks' next possession. Graham really busted the game open with his three-pointer that brought the score to 17-6. With 9:55 left in the first half, Brannen Greene sunk yet another Kansas three-pointer, their fourth of the game, that brought their lead to fourteen points and forced an Oklahoma timeout. 

Oklahoma Uses Slow and Steady Offense To Climb Back Into The Game

Following their timeout, Oklahoma got six quick points to cut the deficit to eight points. Yet, Kansas hadn't completely cooled down as Ellis scored seven points over the next four minutes. But thanks to consistent shooting from the Sooners, the deficit remained just 32-19.

Finally, the Jayhawks seemed to cool off, and the Sooner's steady shooting slowly closed the gap with a little help from Kansas's foul-happy team. Over the final five minutes of the first half, the Sooners made nine free throws courtesy of Kansas fouls, which along with a three pointer at the end of the half from Christian James, brought Oklahoma within five points at the halftime as they trailed Kansas just 38-33. 

Kansas Gets Last Laugh After Back And Forth 2nd Half

Oklahoma came out shooting in the second half as Cousins and Hield sunk back to back three-pointers to give Oklahoma their first lead since they led 2-0. Wayne Selden Jr. made a layup to bring the lead back to Kansas followed by a three from Mason to push their lead back up to four points. Oklahoma broke off a 7-2 spurt that saw them take the lead back at 46-45 after a layup from Jordan Woodard. 

Kansas benefited from the fourth lead change of the half when Landen Lucas sunk a pair of free throws to give the Jayhawks a 48-46 lead. 

However, Oklahoma was able to grab some much-needed momentum with some help from their star sparkplug, Buddy Hield. Hield sunk consecutive shots from beyond the arc to boost Oklahoma to a 52-48 lead, their biggest of the game. Cousins then took over for Hield, making a pair of deuces, sandwiched around a Kansas dunk that gave the Sooners a 6-point advantage and ignited the home crowd.

With the score 57-52, play was stopped for an official TV timeout, and Kansas used the stoppage of play to gather their nerves in front of the massive maroon and white clad crowd. When Kansas came back out, they looked like a national title contender again. Graham made a pair of free throws, then assisted on a Greene layup to cut the deficit to one point. Seconds later, Seldon stole the ball right out of the hands of Christian James and sunk a three to give Kansas the lead right back, the sixth lead change of the second half. 

Oklahoma took a timeout, and promptly came right back with a pair of Woodard free throws to tie the game. With a chance to take the lead, the Sooners gave the ball to Hield who came up in the clutch yet again, sinking a three-pointer. 

Luckily for Kansas, with the Oklahoma crowd rocking, and the momentum with the home squad, it was freshman Devontae' Graham who stepped up in the spotlight for Kansas. Graham's jumper cut the deficit to one point before he forced a turnover, and went right back down the court before pouring in another three-pointer to restore Kansas' lead. 

The Sooners were able to out-rebound the Jayhawks on their next possession, collecting offensive boards after consecutive three-point misses before Hield finally initiated the ninth lead change of the half drilling yet another three pointer for a 65-64 lead with 4:09 remaining. 

After Kansas took the lead once more, at 66-65, Woodard converted a rare four-point play for the Jayhawks as he hit a three pointer while being fouled. He finished the job at the charity stripe, sinking his free throw, which gave the Sooners a three-point advantage. This lead lasted exactly fourteen seconds before Graham erased the deficit with a three-pointer of his own. The teams were deadlocked at 69 points apiece with 3:08 showing on the clock. Overtime seemed very possible. 

Cousins made a jumper for Oklahoma but, after a free throw, Graham stepped up again, making yet another three-pointer which brought the score to 73-71. It would prove to be the thirteenth and final lead change of the second half. 

Hield had a chance to tie the game for the Sooners when he went to the free throw line with 26 seconds left, but he made just one of two shots from the free throw line leaving Oklahoma down by a point. Graham was fouled and, unlike Hield, he swished both his free throw opportunities, giving Kansas a 75-72 lead with 20 seconds left. 

Oklahoma was given one more chance to tie it, but Cousins was off the mark on a three-point attempt, and Jamari Taylor collected the defensive rebound for the Jayhawks. Taylor was fouled but missed his free throw. However, the Sooners couldn't come up with the critical rebound, which was collected by Kansas. Taylor was fouled again, and he converted the free throw to give Kansas a two-possession lead. After Hield's desperately launched three-pointer with the last seconds draining off the clock missed its mark, it became official. 

Lack of Depth Hurts Sooners 

While Oklahoma has Buddy Hield (24 points), likely the future player of the year, complemented by fellow guard Isaiah Cousins (21 points), the Sooners have little in the way of depth after that. Only one other starter recorded 10 points, and their bench provided just eight points off the bench.

Another important factor in today's game was how much the bench played. Every Oklahoma starter played at least 30 minutes. The fatigue that plagued the Sooners in the final minutes was too much to overcome as the Jayhawks had only two starters play more than 30 minutes, allowing them to substitute fresh legs in the final crucial minutes as the game slipped away from Oklahoma. 

Game Impact

This game had major implications on the Big 12 tournament standings. Both teams came in tied for first place with an 8-3 conference record. With the win, Kansas stays on pace with West Virginia, tied for the conference lead with the Mountaineers. The Sooners drop to a game back. Kansas will look to jump into the Big 12 lead alone by beating Oklahoma State on Monday, while the Sooners will attempt to rebound at Texas Tech on Wednesday. 

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