Oklahoma St.-Kansas Preview
Bill Self admitted he was about as excited as he's been in his 13 years at Kansas after this weekend's huge win over one of the Big 12's top contenders.
While looking forward to the next game against one of the conference's bottom-feeders, Self's voice lost its pep and turned more business-like.
The second-ranked Jayhawks look to keep rolling and avenge their only loss against a non-ranked team when Oklahoma State visits Monday night.
Kansas (21-4, 9-3) is riding the high of Saturday's 76-72 win at No. 3 Oklahoma, its second over the Sooners in what has been a heavyweight league matchup this season.
The latest victory lifted the Jayhawks into a share of first place in the Big 12 with No. 10 West Virginia, which they beat 75-65 four days earlier as part of a five-game winning streak.
"You can tell I'm excited, but this is about as much fun as I've had coaching the game in a while," Self said. "It was a big, big, big-time game and a huge win. Of course, it sets up a rematch game on Monday."
That's when the enthusiasm in Self's voice mellowed.
"It doesn't do anything unless we take care of business the rest of the way," he added. "We still got a lot of hard games left. It's early in the conference race."
Maybe the reason Self backed up a bit was the sequence of events that followed last month's 109-106 triple-overtime win over Oklahoma. That victory lost some of its luster over an ensuing 3-3 stretch, including a bitter 86-67 road loss against the Cowboys (12-13, 3-9) on Jan. 19.
Oklahoma State handed the Jayhawks their worst defeat since early last season, becoming responsible for two of their previous three losses against unranked teams. However, both came in Stillwater - the first a 67-62 decision last February.
Kansas has won two in a row and 11 of 12 in this series at Allen Fieldhouse since 1997. The Jayhawks are 14-0 there this season and have won 39 in a row at home dating to Jan. 11, 2014 - the third-longest streak in school history.
After averaging 69 points on 41.8 percent shooting in the five games that followed its marathon win over Oklahoma last month, Kansas has scored 77.5 per game and shot 50.3 percent in the last six.
Top scorers Perry Ellis (17.2 points per game coming in) and Wayne Selden Jr. (14.7) combined for just 16 this time against the Sooners, but Devonte' Graham filled the void with the best game of his career. The sophomore guard made 6 of 9 from 3-point range and scored a career-high 27 while defending Buddy Hield - one of the nation's top scorers.
"He was as good (Saturday) as anybody's been at Kansas since I've been here," Self said of Graham, who helped hold Hield without a field goal in the first half after the Sooners star scored 46 in the first meeting. "He was special."
Oklahoma State ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 by allowing 69.7 points per game in league play, but the Cowboys snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday's 58-55 overtime win over Kansas State - moving them one game ahead of last-place TCU.
They seek their first back-to-back victories since early January while trying to improve to 2-6 in true road games.
"I'm obviously proud," coach Travis Ford told the team's official website. "We've been through a lot and I feel bad for them because they hear the same things that I hear."