Entering Saturday’s game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Kansas Jayhawks had a 33 game winning streak at home. Under Bill Self, they’d lost a total of seven times (versus eight conference championships, a ridiculous stat). But OSU came out with no fear, led through most of the first half and withstood a late rally to hang out for the 85-80 win.
After the game, Bill Self said the the team has been playing on “borrowed time” and that’s a good way to put it. Winning, as Self put it, “camoflauges things” but KU really hasn’t played that well through most of conference play. Either their offense is sloppy, their shooting is off, or they’re not taking care of the ball.
Self also railed against the team’s softness. Markel Brown and Marcus Smart were devastating as a combo against KU, scoring a combined 53 points. Smart had eight offensive rebounds, while Brown made seven three-pointers. As a team, OSU had 17 offensive rebounds and 21 second chance points. Fifteen of those came in the second half.
Kansas fought back from a 40-34 halftime deficit though, taking a lead within five minutes of the second half when a Ben McLemore three-pointer made the score 46-45. Both teams traded the lead for a while before Kansas built the lead up to four points and kept it in that area for a stretch in the second half. Then, Elijah Johnson turned the ball over twice. After one, OSU hit a three-pointer to get back to within one. After the other, they got an offensive rebound and dunked the ball in to retake the lead.
Late in the game, Kansas went without a field goal from 7:11 (when Naadir Tharpe hit a three) until McLemore hit a three with 52 seconds left in the game after OSU had built their lead up to 77-69. With lead down to five, OSU made one of two free throws while Andrew White came into the game and hit a three-pointer, then got a steal on the inbounds and hit one of two free throws after a foul. What was once an eight point lead had been cut to two in 16 seconds. A Johnson layup 17 seconds later made it 81-80 OSU, and, after two free throws, Kansas had the ball with a chance to tie if they could get a three-point shot off.
It’s the situation that gets debated every time it comes up. Foul up three or let the defense contest the shot? As Johnson came up the court, Oklahoma State backed off of him. He started to drive but the ball went off his foot and the Cowboys threw it ahead for a layup as time expired to finish off the win.
Johnson turned the ball over four times and only made three field goals out of 14 attempts. One of those was on a breakaway dunk, too. He’s just playing poorly this year, and it’s the biggest part of Kansas’s offensive problems. Self later said “we don’t have a point guard“. Tharpe had four assists and only one turnover, but he’s small and doesn’t make up for it with quickness on defense. If there’s a change made at the point, Tharpe will run the offense but he’s not an ideal option either right now.
It’s obvious that Self is frustrated. He called the team the “softest of all time” after the game and while you can tell the talent is there for most, it’s not a deep team. Kevin Young and Travis Releford get the most out of their skills and McLemore is a scorer, but he’s not a ballhandler. The bench hasn’t contributed much at all, though Perry Ellis has had his moments.
McLemore led Kansas with 23 points. Kevin Young added 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The loss snaps their seven game winning streak in conference play and their 18 game winning streak overall. They’ll go on the road to face TCU on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CST. Their next home game will be against the Kansas State Wildcats on February 11 when they attempt to start a new home winning streak.