Four Key Takeaways From a Wild Night In Lawrence

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 20th, 2015

It was a tale of two halves last night in Lawrence, as Kansas hit nine first half threes to sprint out to a commanding 51-32 halftime lead against Oklahoma, only to watch it disappear as the Sooners stormed back to take a four-point lead before collapsing at the end. Let’s consider four key takeaways from a game of several crazy swings.

Kansas and Oklahoma Took It Hard at Each Other Last Night (USA Today Images)

Kansas and Oklahoma Took It Hard at Each Other Last Night (USA Today Images)

  • Fiery start fuels Kansas’ first halfKelly Oubre got things going by connecting on a pair of early threes and the Jayhawks refused to let up on their way to 51 first half points. Although Oklahoma remained close for the first five minutes, Kansas would register a 16-0 perimeter barrage with nearly everyone contributing. This team is built to fire away from deep, but Bill Self has tried in vain to establish an inside presence even though he doesn’t have a true back-to-the-basket big man (however, Cliff Alexander may be developing into one, as we’ll discuss separately below). While Kansas’ scorching first half is a statistical outlier, it underscores the fact that the Jayhawks are at their best when they utilize their outside shooting prowess.
  • Don’t overlook Buddy Hield in the Big 12 POY race: This conference is filled with scorers from Marcus Foster to Phil Forte to Georges Niang, but the Sooners’ Buddy Hield may be the best of the bunch. His 26 points were a game-high and he’s now shooting a superb 60.5 percent on twos in league action in spite of his 6’4″ frame, along with a 44 percent clip from deep in Big 12 play. Hield isn’t without his warts, though, as he tends to rush shots (especially in transition) and he could stand to share the ball a little more often with talented and effective teammates like Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler. Still, the junior is an undeniable star, as evidenced not only by his huge game in arguably the most intimidating environment in college basketball, but his play all season to date.

  • Younger Jayhawks carry their weight down the stretch: After Self played freshman Cliff Alexander for just two minutes in the second half in Saturday loss to Iowa State, the head coach came under some rare but deserving criticism for the way he managed his frontcourt in that game. Self pointed to a pair of defensive lapses by Alexander as the reason for sitting him, despite the fact that the beneficiary of those minutes, Landen Lucas, was a much less productive player. On Monday, Alexander responded to his benching with 13 points, 13 rebounds (seven offensive) and lockdown defense on the powerful TaShawn Thomas, helping to contain the Houston transfer to a 1-of-7 shooting night. The big storyline moving forward will be whether Self lengthens the leash on Alexander as he has with Oubre since the Temple debacle, but each of Kansas’ freshmen deserve kudos for their play Monday night. Oubre scored 19 points but also used his length and athleticism to frustrate Oklahoma on the glass, while Frank Mason chipped in with a pair of key buckets after Kansas had briefly surrendered the lead. All told, 14 of the Jayhawks’ last 18 points were scored by their freshmen, which speaks volumes about the roles they will play in Kansas’ quest for an 11th straight Big 12 title.
  • Oklahoma shows its multiple personalities. There isn’t a team in the Big 12 that epitomizes the league’s wild variance quite like Oklahoma. In just the first two weeks of Big 12 play, the Sooners throttled Texas in Austin, lost to Kansas State at home and were blown out by West Virginia. Yesterday, their flair for the dramatic continued as they dug themselves a 20-point hole, climbed out of it and even pulled ahead before ultimately falling down the stretch. Lon Kruger’s team is trustworthy in the sense that it is a safe bet for an NCAA Tournament bid, but it’s almost impossible to tell what you’re going to get from his team on a nightly basis. If these hot-and-cold performances continue over the next six weeks, the Sooners could make for a very interesting seeding discussion.
Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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