Slow start costs No. 6 Jayhawks in walloping by Oklahoma State
STILLWATER, Okla. — They’re barely considered a bubble team for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, but Oklahoma State just bolstered its resume with another big win.
Kendall Smith scored a career-high 25 points and Mitchell Solomon had 16 points and seven rebounds to help lead Oklahoma State to an 82-64 victory over No. 6 Kansas in the regular season finale for both teams on Saturday.
The Cowboys’ home fans rushed the court at the final buzzer as Oklahoma State finished the season with three wins in their final four games. The win puts them eighth in the Big 12 and sets up a rivalry battle in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma.
Smith, who had scored just nine points in each of his two previous outings, hit 20 for the seventh time this season and for the fifth time in the last nine contests. He also added a career-high four steals.
Oklahoma State (18-13, 8-10) swept the season series from Kansas, marking the first time that the Jayhawks have been swept in a home-and-home since 2001, a span of 103 series.
“It hasn’t been a smooth ride, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, but these kids have been really resilient and I couldn’t be more proud,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said. “We were locked in. Our guys played with a determination today that we haven’t had consistently throughout the year.”
Boynton believes his team, which also defeated then-No. 6 Texas Tech 79-71 on Feb. 21 and then-No. 19 West Virginia 88-85 on Feb. 10, deserves to be in the tournament.
“I think we can beat anybody,” Boynton said. “I feel like, if we’re in the right frame of mind, and if we play with the type of focus that we’re capable of, I don’t care where it is, who the other coach is, who the other team has on its roster. I believe in these guys that much.”
Devonte’ Graham, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week, scored 15 points and had eight assists to lead the Jayhawks (24-7, 13-5), who had a five-game winning streak snapped. The Jayhawks had already secured the top seed in next week’s Big 12 Conference Tournament.
“It does surprise me, I thought we’d compete harder,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of his team’s performance, “considering they had kicked us pretty good at our place (in a 84-79 OSU win on Feb. 3), but that was not the case. Our game plan, that’s on me, on how to combat their pressure and everything, obviously didn’t work, so once it went bad, it started going worse.”
And if Oklahoma State can beat Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday, it will set up another matchup with Kansas in the quarterfinals Thursday.
“They would be the favorite in that game,” Self said. “We’re either going to play Oklahoma or Oklahoma State and they’re both capable of beating us. Certainly, it’ll be a coin-flip game either way, and we’re going to have to be a heck of a lot better than the two times we played OSU.”
Kansas: Having already clinched the Big 12 regular-season championship, their NCAA-record 14th in a row and their 61st overall conference title, also a record, the Jayhawks perhaps didn’t start the contest with the required intensity to defeat a determined opponent, falling behind early and never having the lead all game, despite several nice runs and a comeback attempt that saw them pull to within 56-47 with 11:59 remaining. KU still has 13 conference victories for the 13th straight season and is one away for 25 overall wins for the 13th year in a row.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys continued their pattern of playing their best against elite competition. The win leaves the Cowboys with a 5-1 record in their last six games against ranked opponents, with four of them against top 10 teams, both tied for the most in the NCAA this season.
The loss may cost Kansas a couple of spots in the next poll, depending on how the teams directly behind them fared this week, but they should remain in the top 10.
After Graham sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 11:56 left in the opening half, the Jayhawks trailed just 17-14, but Oklahoma State went on a game-defining 13-0 run over the next three-plus minutes to take control of the contest. The Cowboys kept adding to the lead and maintained at least a nine-point advantage the rest of the way as the Jayhawks spent the remainder of the game battling from behind.
Oklahoma State led from wire-to-wire, never trailing in the game at all. . Kansas won the rebounding battle 37-30, including a decisive 23-12 edge in the second half. . The 18-point loss for Kansas marked their largest margin of defeat this season. . The 18-point win was the Cowboys’ largest margin of victory in a Big 12 game this year, with the previous high being their nine-point win over Iowa State on Tuesday.
Kansas: As the top seed in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, the Jayhawks will face the winner of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys will play rival Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday.