Kansas continues downward spiral
NORMAN, Okla. (AP)
Buddy Hield came away with the steal, ran out to the other end of the court for a dunk that wouldn't count. It was still time for Oklahoma to celebrate, and Hield would get bounced around on fans' shoulders in a rare on-the-court postgame party at the Lloyd Noble Center.
With the Jayhawks (19-4, 7-3 Big 12) on a surprising three-game slide, the conference regular season championship is suddenly up for grabs.
''It's a step, but there's a lot of steps,'' Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. ''There are a bunch of small steps necessary, and again it happens because these guys have worked hard and continue to work at it and have maintained a real good attitude about getting better each day.''
The Sooners (15-7, 6-4) snapped a 10-game losing streak in the series and took down a top 5 opponent for the first time since beating No. 4 Texas on Jan. 28, 2006.
Freshman Je'lon Hornbeak went 4 for 6 at the free throw line in the final minute, just enough to keep the Jayhawks at bay. Cameron Clark hit two free throws to finish it off, and fans stormed the court after Hield stole the ball and dunk after the final buzzer sounded.
Just a week ago, Kansas had the nation's longest winning streak at 18 games. Now, the program is on its first three-game losing streak since February 2005.
''We had lost two straight, too. We needed a win. So, they could have looked at us the same way,'' Osby said. ''But we just came out and we just fought.''
Ben McLemore led Kansas with 15 points and Jeff Withey had 14 points, six rebounds and the one block he needed to tie Greg Ostertag's school record with 258 for his career. The Jayhawks outscored Oklahoma 32-16 in the paint, but missed seven of their first 12 free throws to stall their attempts at a comeback.
''Obviously three in a row is not good, but this game to me today, I'm not leaving out of here disgusted with my team at all because we actually played better today,'' said Kansas coach Bill Self, who was highly critical of his team after a loss at last-place TCU on Wednesday.
''We played a good team today, and they shot the heck out of the basketball.''
Oklahoma had a 23-11 advantage in bench scoring, led by Clark's 10 points, to snap its own two-game skid. The Sooners never trailed over the final 30 minutes.
McLemore drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to start a string of eight straight Jayhawk points, cutting the deficit to 57-56 on Elijah Johnson's runner with 4:58 remaining before Amath M'Baye snapped a 4-minute drought for Oklahoma by hitting a 3-pointer.
Travis Releford had a chance to tie it at 60 before missing the second of two free throws with 4:12 to play, and Pledger connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing at the opposite end to give Oklahoma a smidgen of breathing room. Hornbeak then answered Withey's two-handed slam with a 3-pointer, and the Jayhawks were forced to foul when Johnson came up empty on a drive to the hoop.
Hornbeak hit one of two free throws for a 67-61 lead with 57.7 seconds left, then split another pair after Johnson hit a 3. McLemore's tip-in of a miss by Naadir Tharpe got Kansas within 68-66 with 15.7 seconds left.
Hornbeak then went 2 for 2 at the line when it counted the most.
''I missed two. I'm not really happy about that,'' Hornbeak said. ''They went in and out on me. But the last two, I knew the touch - exactly where I needed to put the ball at.''
The Jayhawks, who made just three baskets and scored 13 points in the first half of the loss at TCU, surpassed that scoring total in just over 5 minutes as both teams got out to a crisp start. The problem for Kansas was at the other end, with the Sooners hitting 15 of their first 25 shots and leading by as many as eight points in the final minute of the first half.
Tharpe then earned a defensive 5-second call against Isaiah Cousins and had two baskets to get the Jayhawks within 38-34 at halftime. Kansas got as close as one before Osby's third-chance basket started a string of eight straight Sooner points to restore the lead to 55-46 with 10 minutes left.
''I hate to say this but there's a lot of teams in the country that lose two or three games in a row, and there's a lot of teams that struggle winning away from home,'' Self said. ''This today isn't magnified from a win-loss standpoint if we had taken care of business when we should have the prior games.''