Kansas, Oklahoma looking ahead to rematch after 3OT thriller
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Oklahoma's Buddy Hield was still wringing wet after a three-overtime thriller against Kansas, the longest game ever played in the long, storied history of Allen Fieldhouse, when he flashed a brilliant smile and said, ''I can't wait for the rematch.''
Neither can anybody else.
The first 1-2 matchup in their league since the Sooners and Jayhawks met 26 years ago in the Big Eight tournament not only lived up to expectation, it exceeded every one of them.
Hield hit eight 3-pointers and scored 46 points in one of the finest performances in school history, one that earned him a standing ovation from Kansas fans. Jordan Woodard and Ryan Spangler hit critical shots that kept the Sooners going against the nation's top-ranked team, which was on the ropes several times in an epic clash.
On the other side, Perry Ellis was piling up 27 points and 13 rebounds in a virtuoso performance of his own against the second-ranked Sooners. Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonte Graham hit key shots, and Frank Mason III - limping through a bruised shin - picked Hield's pocket twice to help seal the win.
Kansas 109, Oklahoma 106.
Round 1 to the Jayhawks.
''I'd say about the 2-minute mark in regulation, I looked down there at the bench, and they're smiling, and I said, `God, there's a bunch of kids playing their tails off, making play after play,''' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ''If we'd have lost the game, I would have walked into the locker room and said, `You'll never forget this one.'''
At least, until they play Round 2.
The brutal benefit of the Big 12 is that everyone plays each other twice, which means the Jayhawks head to Norman on Feb. 13. And who knows? Maybe a third matchup awaits in the Big 12 tournament.
Good luck living up to this one, though.
Start with Hield, who played on some of the same summer teams as Ellis and at a prep school not far from Lawrence. Kansas recruited him but he ultimately went to Oklahoma, and he certainly made Self wonder what might have been when he was pouring in shots on a night that seemed to never end.
Hield played 54 of a possible 55 minutes. His 46 points matched the second-most by a Kansas opponent, and trumped Oklahoma State's Randy Rutherford for most by an opposing player in the fieldhouse. It tied for the sixth-most in school history, and the most since Brent Price scored 56 in 1990, the same year as that Big Eight tilt when No. 1 Oklahoma beat No. 2 Kansas 95-77 in the Big Eight tournament semifinals.
Hield was so good that he churned through three different defenders, getting Selden and Graham into foul trouble and forcing Mason onto him for the balance of the game.
''He's as good as there's been in this building for a long time,'' Self said. ''And he made hard shots, good gosh. That one there at the end, what were we up, four? And we got the loose ball, got two rebounds that go through our hands - and that's a great time to shoot 3s is off offensive rebounds. The ball just happens to bounce to him and contest and he made that one. That was ridiculous.''
Ultimately, Hield's brilliance was outmatched by the Jayhawks' balance.
Sure, he got plenty of help from Woodard (27 points) and Spangler (14 points, 18 boards). But Isaiah Cousins struggled with his shot, and the Sooners' bench only contributed five points.
''They deserved to keep going if they could, and they wanted to for sure,'' Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said of his starting lineup. ''It would have been tough to step in there and get in the flow.''
The Jayhawks' top five did the bulk of the work, too, but Kansas got crucial minutes from just about everyone on the bench. Svi Mykhailiuk and Brannen Greene hit 3-pointers at important junctures, and Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor provided help on Spangler in the paint.
In the end, they seemed to be the fresher team.
''I can play an extra two or three overtimes right now,'' Mason said, stone-faced and serious. ''No matter how much time you put on the clock, I can keep playing.''
As soon as the final buzzer sounded, the comparisons to some of the college basketball's best games began. Self said he thought it trumped the six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut in the 2009 Big East tournament because of the shot-making involved, and compared it to the Jayhawks' angst-filled overtime defeat of Missouri four years ago in the final edition of the ''Border War.''
The big difference between that game and this one?
''This was a respect game,'' Self said. ''I think that's how both teams handled it.''