The Kansas Jayhawks honored several members of KU's 1952 NCAA championship basketball team who were in attendance Saturday afternoon with a 81-66 win at Allen Field House.
All five Kansas starters finished in double figures, led by big men Thomas Robinson (24 points, 14 rebounds) and Jeff Withey (18 points, 20 rebounds). Tyshawn Taylor added 12 to go with six assists and three turnovers. Elijah Johnson showed signs of offensive life with 11, and Travis Releford chipped in 10.
It was a tale of two halves, however.
Kansas was Dr. Jekyll in the first half, building a 51-24 lead on 63% shooting with 13 assists and three measly turnovers.
Then they transformed into Mr. Hyde in the second stanza. A re-energized, aggressive Oklahoma State group came out and pressed doggedly much of the period while running a match-up zone that caused the Jayhawks fits. KU committed 11 turnovers and shot just 34%.
“It was a half really bad, and a half really good,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said, post-game.
“The first half, we were terrific. Terrific,” Self said. “[We played with] energy...guarded...we ran, we attacked 'em inside, we played inside out really good the first half.
“Second half, as good as we were the first half, we were about that bad the second half.”
Self said that Robinson and Withey's domination was no happy accident. He wanted Kansas' guards to look inside first against the Cowboys due to OSU's lack of size and inside depth. He thought this game had all the earmarks of a big afternoon for his bigs.
Then came the second half. Self described it with a look of disbelief.
“It was unbelievable to watch, from my standpoint. I mean... makin' grade-school plays. We're better than that,” he said.
“I thought everybody was great the first half. I thought everyone was in tune, defensively. It probably came a little bit too easily. We didn't play probably as well as the score indicated. Tyshawn (Taylor) made one mistake on (OSU's star point guard Keiton) Page the first half. One. It cost us three points, but I thought for the most part, we did a really good job,” Self said.
He continued, “Second half, I had – nobody was turned up the second half. That wasn't a very good defensive team the second half.”
Self's fatal mistake? He thinks is was complementing his team in the halftime locker room.
“I really like our guys, but whenever I tell 'em I like 'em, which I told 'em at halftime, I said, 'I'm really startin' to enjoy watchin' you guys play.' I told 'em that, and I knew it was a bad mistake. Of course, they gave me the excuse to correct myself at the end of the game.”
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said that his Cowboys made some adjustments at halftime, but the biggest change was in their approach to Kansas.
“I said, 'We're gonna be something different from what we were [in the first half]',” Ford said. And man, were they.
The Cowboys utilized a zone – something they've done just a handful of times this season – to rejuvenate themselves as well as turn up the heat on Kansas. Their ramped-up intensity forced KU miscues, which begat several more, both forced and unforced.
“Turnovers are contagious,” Self said, “and we caught the bug second half.”
Kansas played poorly enough that a 27-point halftime lead was down to 12 with 6:46 left. It never got closer than that: Kansas scored the next seven points to ice the game. Nevertheless, the Cowboys won the second half, 42-30, sending a message that KU's upcoming visit to Gallagher-Iba Arena won't be a cakewalk.
Oklahoma State may also have served notice to the rest of the Big 12. First, they have a press and they're not afraid to use it. Second, OSU played like a team that has no intention of going gentle into that good night. They intend to do some damage when they make the trip to Kansas City and the Sprint Center for the Big 12 Tournament.
Kansas took care of business and got the win Saturday afternoon, but a lousy second half may have gotten Kansas' attention just enough to keep them from being fat and happy heading into Bramlage Coliseum for Big Monday. KU will be facing Kansas State and their coach, the new-and-improved, profanity-free Frank Martin. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. on the Worldwide Leader.