Rushed Reactions: #10 Kansas 77, Oklahoma State 70 (OT)

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

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Here are three key takeaways from Kansas’ thrilling win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

  1. How about that for a follow up performance from Andrew Wiggins? After scoring 41 in a loss to West Virginia last Saturday, the freshman scored 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting in his third, and likely final, game against Oklahoma State. For most of the game the Cowboys did a good job in taking the baseline away from Wiggins and forcing him to beat them with his jump shot. And beat them he did, going 3-of-6 from three, and hitting a stepback jumper to tie the game at the end of regulation. Wiggins found more space going to the rim in the second half, and finished off an elevator of an alley-oop. He was also tasked with guarding Markel Brown the majority of the game, and forced the senior into a 5-of-13 shooting afternoon. This occurred after Brown had an efficient 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting the night before. In these last two games Wiggins has played the type of basketball that can carry a team deep into the postseason. That’s pretty good timing on his part.
  2. Wiggins took the headlines today, but the bigger story is how Kansas fared against a quality opponent without Joel Embiid in the lineup. Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor combined for 21 rebounds, 13 points and two blocks, and production like that will go a long way in allowing the Jayhawks to weather the absence of the seven-foot difference-maker. It’ll need to be an all hands on deck mantra for the Kansas big men, and it was this afternoon. Embiid is a dynamic defensive player, but Kansas may feel his loss just as much on the offensive end. Foul trouble limited Perry Ellis to just eight second half minutes, and without him in the game the Jayhawks had no one to draw the Cowboys’ defensive attention in the low post. If not for Wiggins’ scoring heroics, Kansas likely wouldn’t have been able to weather the Oklahoma State comeback. Though raw offensively, Embiid still demands attention, and that will be missed for as long as he’s out.
  3. Number one seeds now might be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Cowboys’ late season surge (with wins over Kansas and Kansas State), paired with their solid performance this afternoon, may have served to bump them off of the rumored #8/#9 seed line. Given their star power and reputation going into the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the committee gives them the benefit of the doubt this weekend. That’s good news for any potential top seed. As Bill Self said after the game, if the Cowboys avoid foul trouble, they are good enough to play with just about anyone in the country. Neither Brown nor Marcus Smart shot the ball well today, but Le’Bryan Nash displayed why he’s a such a tough match-up problem. He’s developed into a capable low post scorer, but by nature is more of a slasher. Contending with both of these styles is a tough task for any big man attempting to guard him.

Quotable.

  • “Coach teaches me new things every day. Just preparation and practice. Always play hard, run the floor, defend your man and he just made me a better player.” – Andrew Wiggins, on how he was been able to keep improving his game.
  • “That took everything we had. We had to play out of foul trouble, and I think it took everything Iowa State had to win earlier today. So you’ll have two tired teams that have to recover fast and get ready tomorrow.” – Bill Self, on tomorrow’s semifinal against a similarly exhausted Iowa State team.

Sights and Sounds: The early session at Sprint Center was probably as good as it gets in terms of noise and atmosphere at a conference tournament. Maybe that’s a bold statement, but with the vast and boisterous Kansas fan base involved, it can’t be that unreasonable. Iowa State also brought a loud and large contingent, and Kansas State and Oklahoma State showed out well too. Despite the exciting pair of games, it’s unfortunate that two of these fan bases are already heading home from Kansas City.

What’s Next.

  • Kansas gets set to play Iowa State in a match-up of two teams on many people’s Final Four contender short list. That this game is taking place in the Big 12 semifinals speaks to the depth of the league. The Jayhawks won both of the teams’ previous meetings this year, and the third game should feature a great Sprint Center atmosphere.
  • Oklahoma State heads back to Stillwater and waits to find out where it will be seeded. It shouldn’t be a stressful few days since the Cowboys are clearly a lock now for a bid — that certainly wasn’t the case amidst their seven-game conference losing streak last month. By any measure (RPI, KenPom, eye test), Oklahoma State will be a dangerous team going forward.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (128 Posts)


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