The opening tip-off of the Kansas-Oklahoma Big Monday match-up found its way into Darnell Jackson's hands. He promptly turned toward the basket, saw nothing but hardwood between him and the rim and took the ball to the basket, posterizing Sooner center Longar Longar with malice and aforethought.
Believe it or not, for OU, it only got worse from there.
KU opened up leads of 9-0 and 20-4 before doubling up the Sooners, 40-20, at halftime en route to a 30-point win. Jackson led KU scorers with 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Brandon Rush had 16 points and led the Jayhawks in boards with nine.
Oklahoma was led in scoring by the only player in the nation whose name can be followed by the comment, "That's what she said." Longar Longar poured in 21 points in a very physical, blue-collar effort. The Sooners were led in rebounding by Taylor Griffin with eight and David Godbold with seven.
Jackson's dunk set the tone for the first half. Post-game, Brandon Rush made the call: "[Jackson] just out-hustled everybody and crammed it down on someone's head."
"Brandon, Mario (Chalmers) and Russell (Robinson) all told me it set the tone for the game," Jackson said. "I just tried to make sure I hustled the ball down. Next thing I know, I was open for a dunk."
KU coach Bill Self said that this is the kind of play that Jackson makes that sparks the team.
"We feed off Darnell's energy more than anyone else, and that play to start the game was a great play. I mean, that was a basketball play. I think it set the tone for the first half."
The second half was little more than a hard scrimmage with a good crowd. Oklahoma started the half going on a baby 5-0 run to make the score 40-25. Kansas fired back with an 11-0 run of their own to put the game away.
"That's what our team is: a spurt team," Self acknowledged. "We can putter around and be behind, 17-15, or be ahead, 17-15, and three minutes later, we can have a double-figure lead. But that's what most really good teams can do. When you play defense and can score off defense, you're gonna score points in bunches."
The game most likely would have been closer if Sooner phenom Blake Griffin hadn't sustained a sprained knee just five minutes into the game. The 6-10 frosh was leading the Sooners in scoring, rebounding and steals. Oklahoma struggled mightily without him.
The Sooners weren't the only ones disappointed about the injury. KU's Jackson, who grew up just 20 minutes from Griffin and played AAU ball with Griffin's older brother and Sooner teammate Taylor, was looking forward to playing against him.
"I hope he gets well soon. I hear he's a terrific player. I was excited about going against him," Jackson said.
Kansas used the second half to work very patiently in the half-court against a Sooner zone. Slowing the pace a bit was intentional, according to two Jayhawks.
Rush said, "We know, down the road, we're going to have some games like that – grind-out games where we won't be able to get up and down the floor."
The team welcomed the opportunity to run their half-court sets, Chalmers said. "We just practice it in practices, and I think it's paying off. We just got to execute in games."
Defensively, KU held Oklahoma to just 32.8 percent shooting, which was good enough to keep the coach happy.
He said, "We played well tonight. We were definitely pretty charged. I thought our guys were flying around pretty good defensively, for the most part."
KU picked the Sooners' pockets nine times, slightly below the team average, but Chalmers said this is to be expected as the ‘Hawks head into conference play.
"With tougher opponents, you're not going to get easy steals like in the beginning (of the season), so we just try to play solid D and just be sound," he explained.
Another bright spot on the night was free throw shooting. Kansas made 17 of 18 from the charity stripe. Self was asked if KU's recent improvement in FT shooting was a product of coaching.
"Yeah, we tell ‘em to make ‘em. So, we're really coaching ‘em up," he responded, laughing.
He continued, "We've got good shooters; we just haven't shot ‘em well. Free throw percentage will go up in the conference schedule."
Brandon Rush said the Jayhawks aren't satisfied with where they are with so much basketball left to play. Even he, though, had to admit KU is on a roll.
"Everything is clicking right now. Our chemistry is good, we're balanced. DJ came up to be the leading scorer tonight, Shady put in his points and Sherron did his thing, too."
Up next for the Jayhawks: Missouri. Upholding a decades-long tradition, MU will enjoy its only basketball sell-out of the season, thanks to the visiting Jayhawks. Mike Anderson's Tiger squad defeated #12-ranked Texas last Saturday, 97-84, meaning the inevitable loss to Kansas will be just that much more fun. Tip-off at Paige Sports Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.