Oklahoma basketball: Kansas head coach Bill Self says Sooners are ‘really good’

Jan 10, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self reacts during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

A look back at the scores from Tuesday’s Big 12 games shows a 79-75 Oklahoma basketball loss to Kansas.

That doesn’t nearly tell the story of the game, however, a contest the Sooners could have and probably should have won at a place, Allen Fieldhouse, that has been a house of horrors for many teams, including Oklahoma. The Sooners have not won a game at the place known as “The Phog,” after the legendary Kansas head coach Phog Allen, in 29 years, or since 1993.

OU is 0-21 against Kansas on the Jayhawks’ home court since Oklahoma last won a game there in 1994. The Sooners have come close several times during that span, most notably in 2016, when Buddy Hield dropped 46 points and it took two overtimes before Kansas prevailed 109-106. That game featured a highly unusual showdown between two No. 1 teams. Kansas was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, while the Sooners were the No. 1 according to the Coaches Poll.

Last season’s game in Lawrence was also a close affair with Kansas holding on at the end for a 71-69 victory.

The game on Tuesday between these two longtime conference foes was not expected to be close. The Las Vegas handicappers had established the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks as a 10.5-point favorite over Porter Moser’s unranked Oklahoma team. The last time an OU men’s team appeared in the national rankings was the end of the 2020-21 season.

Very few people expected the Sooners to be much of a test for the highly ranked Jayhawks, but the Sooners had other ideas. And why not? In two games against Kansas last season, Moser’s team lost twice, but only by a combined five points.

Bill Self’s Kansas teams like to play fast and get up and down the court in transition. Moser knows that and, taking a page out of the Bill Belichick playbook, taking that strength away from the Jayhawks was job one for Moser’s Sooners. According to KenPom, Kansas is averaging 13.2 fastbreak points per game. On Tuesday night, the Jayhawks were held to eight fastbreak points.

“They’re comfortable playing at a pace that slows people down,” Self said to reporters in his postgame comments. “They take care of the ball for the most part, so you don’t get run-outs.

Because of the Sooners’ transition defense, the Jayhawks struggled to get good looks at the basket and were held to their second lowest shooting percentage of the season (37.3 percent).

“Our only way to score was to drive it and try to get to the foul line,” Self said. Which Kansas was able to do, scoring more than half of their 79 points from the free-throw line, going 31 of 39.

The Kansas head coach wasn’t the only one that had praise for this under-appreciated Oklahoma team. Said Jayhawk junior forward Jalen Wilson, “They’ve got great coaching, great players and guys who know how to play basketball…They just make you have to make tough shots.”

Oklahoma led by 10 points over the Jayhawks with just a little over five minutes to go in the game, and it appeared the Sooners were on their way to a long-lost victory over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The OU defense held the Jayhawks without a field goal for 13 minutes in the second half.

Even knowing that Kansas was probably good for one last run, when it came — and it did in a flourish in the closing minutes of the contest — the Sooners were powerless to stop it. The Jayhawks caught fire at both ends of the floor over the final five minutes, outscoring OU 18-4 to seize victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat.

"“They did everything you’re supposed to do to win a game on the road,” Self said about Oklahoma’s performance. “They did a lot of good things.“We just found a way,” Self said. “But give OU credit. They were good.”"

Oklahoma needs to find a way to play as well on Saturday and get back on the winning track with a home win over West Virginia.