Norman, Okla. It was time for a reality check for Kansas University's basketball team Monday night in Noble Center.
The Jayhawks, who vaulted to No. 3 in the polls earlier in the day as reward for piling up six consecutive victories by an average of 28.8 points, blew a 17-point lead before regaining their composure in a 67-65 victory over Oklahoma, a team that now has dropped five straight games.
"We'd been on kind of a roll. This will ground us a bit, help us get refocused," KU coach Bill Self said after the Jayhawks improved to 26-4 overall and 13-2 in the Big 12 Conference.
A victory over Texas on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse would guarantee Self's fourth KU squad at least a share of the league crown.
"The most important thing is we won the game. Our guys made enough plays to win the game," Self said.
Yes, but the Jayhawks, who suffered 12 second-half turnovers against OU's press and netted no points from fab freshmen Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur, definitely wobbled after dominating the past couple of weeks.
Some have said the Jayhawks needed a close game after a batch of blowouts and a nine-pointer at Kansas State.
They got their wish Monday night.
"It's the best scenario. I just wish we'd played better. But it's the best scenario to have a grind-it-out game and win (this time of year)," Self said.
1-for-11 Oklahoma's first-half three-point shooting5-for-8 Oklahoma's second-half three-point shooting1-for-7 KU's first-half three-point shooting0-for-0 KU's second-half three-point shooting4, 2 KU's first-half turnovers, OU's points off those turnovers12, 17 KU's second-half turnovers, OU's points off those turnovers
He liked the fact Julian Wright scored 12 points early in helping KU blaze to a 33-16 lead. And he was tickled Mario Chalmers hit 10 of 12 free throws the second half on a night KU's other players made 12 of 22.
He didn't like the fact Brandon Rush missed five of seven shots and scored nine points with four turnovers in 33 minutes and Collins had his first sub-par game in a while with no points off five misses in 33 minutes.
"Our best performers got timid. We can't play that way," Self said. "Brandon shied away from plays tonight. That's what he can't do.
"No question, Sherron has been our best player in crunch time until tonight. Maybe he was due. Julian and Mario were good (with 18 apiece). Shady (Arthur) didn't play much. I won't throw him under the bus. You can make the case more than one guy didn't have it. I also wanted to go with experienced guys down the stretch. There was nothing he (Arthur) did that made me mad."
OU's Nate Carter, who was fired up playing on Senior Night, scored six of his 20 points and David Godbold four in a 19-7 run that turned a 33-16 deficit into a five-point game (40-35) with 14:40 left.
OU finally tied it on a Michael Neal three with 6:06 left. Suddenly, a dead crowd had come to life.
"We forgot press offense against soft pressure," Self lamented.
"We made easy plays the first half," said Wright, who hit eight of 12 shots and had eight rebounds and four assists. "The second half, we were giving them confidence by not making the easy play. We had to dig down, and we did that."
"The reason they came back strong," Chalmers noted, "is they started making shots and forced us into some turnovers. We had a lot of good possessions the first half."
Tentativeness against OU's press was a killer.
"We've got good ballhandlers," Collins noted, "but you can't dribble against two or three people. Your teammates have to make the right cut. My shot wasn't there for me tonight, but my teammates know they can count on me to do other things, like get a stop."
How did KU pull out a win?
Rush actually put KU ahead for good by making one of two free throws at 5:28, busting the 51-51 tie. Chalmers followed with four charities, answered by a Bobby Maze bucket as KU led 56-53 at 4:07.
Wright's scoop shot boosted the lead to 58-53 at 3:29.
Another big bucket came when Sasha Kaun horsed in a rebound of a Rush miss at 1:29, keeping KU in front, 60-55. Rush's two free throws at 1:07 upped the lead back to seven, but OU outscored the Jayhawks 10-5 down the stretch. Wright missed two free throws and Rush one of two, but Chalmers and Russell Robinson swished two apiece.
"We kept our poise for the most part," Chalmers said, "in making free throws and getting some stops down the stretch. Now we go home and regroup, work on some things and hope to play better Saturday."
"We were a little frustrated at times," Wright noted, "but give Oklahoma credit. They turned up the pressure. They're a pretty good team at home and gave us a great game."
Tipoff for Saturday's game against Texas is 11 a.m. at Allen Fieldhouse.