No. 6 Kansas survives cold stretch, beats Oklahoma State
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Bill Self didn’t know exactly how many consecutive shots his team missed to close the first half — it was 19 — but the Kansas coach didn’t panic at halftime, telling his players “the lid will come off” the basket.
It certainly did. No. 6 Kansas shot 70.8% from the field in the second half, helping the Jayhawks overcome a scoreless streak of more than 9 1/2 minutes and beat Oklahoma State 74-63 on Tuesday night in the delayed Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
David McCormack had 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and Ochai Agbaji scored 16 points for Kansas (12-1), which made seven straight shots during a 20-8 run early in the second half that put the Jayhawks — who were tied 29-29 at halftime — back ahead by double digits.
Oklahoma State (7-5) came no closer than six points the rest of the way. When the Cowboys closed within 63-57 on a basket by Isaac Likekele with 6:14 left, Christian Braun began a 9-0 run for Kansas with a pair of baskets. Braun finished with 15 points.
“To win a game on the road and miss 19 straight shots, that’s not going to happen very often,” Self said. “Our shot selection wasn’t great the first half. … The second half, I thought we did a better job. We didn’t get to the free-throw line, but we did a better job of at least driving some in the second half.”
Kansas won its eighth straight game and its 31st consecutive conference opener, a run that began in the 1991-92 season, when the Jayhawks played in the Big 8 Conference. The Jayhawks are 12-1 for the ninth time in Self’s 19 seasons and now lead their series against Oklahoma State, Self’s alma mater, by a 120-60 margin.
Likekele led Oklahoma State with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Oklahoma State hadn’t played since losing to Houston on Dec. 18 due to scheduling issues stemming from COVID-19. The Cowboys had a game against Southern California canceled and their previously scheduled Big 12 opener against Texas Tech postponed. Kansas’ scheduled league opener on New Year’s Day against TCU also was postponed.
Kansas, which came in ranked ninth in Division I in scoring at 85.2 points per game, looked like it would run away from the Cowboys early. The Jayhawks hit six of their first eight shots and went ahead 29-15 on a 3-pointer by Braun with 9:12 left in the first half.
Those proved to be the Jayhawks’ final points before the break. A basket by Bryce Thompson — who transferred to Oklahoma State from Kansas — tied the game with 35 seconds left
“I thought we made a nice run at the end of the first half to get ourselves back into position, but shot-making continues to be an Achilles heel for us and we’ve got to figure out a way to do better there,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “We got 17 straight stops at one point to finish the half. At home, if you get 17 straight stops, you probably should be up six, eight, 10 points. We just didn’t make enough open shots.”
Kansas outrebounded Oklahoma State 50-36, led by McCormack and Jalen Wilson, who also had 15 rebounds.
Kansas: Kansas shot 43.1% from the field, well below its 51.4% average. With the grind of the Big 12 ahead, the Jayhawks know they can win when they’re not at their best offensively.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are in the middle of a stretch of six straight games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the AP Top 25, and the fact they were able to hang with one of the Big 12’s powers for most of the game would seem to bode well for them.
McCormack, who started Kansas’ first 12 games, came off the bench while Mitch Lightfoot made his first start of the season. McCormack thrived in his 23 minutes, and Lightfoot blocked four shots to go with six points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.
“Coach just switched the lineup,” McCormack said. “I think was for the better. It made everybody felt at ease in a sense. … Everyone embraced it.”
“I definitely think that was a game we should have won,” Likekele said.
Kansas: Visits No. 25 Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma State: Hosts No. 17 Texas on Saturday.
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