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The Day After: Oklahoma
The beginning of Big 12 Conference play is as good a time as any to roll out this new feature. So, just as we did with our new pregame feature from Benton Smith, here's a little postgame flavor for those of you who wake up still thinking about KU's latest game.
We won't go into intense detail or labor over this stat or that one, but we will give you a few things to chew on before you move past the latest game and onto the next one.
Obviously, by now, you're well aware of how big KU's 90-83 victory at Oklahoma on Wednesday was for this team, especially when you consider it came on the heels of its first non-conference home loss since 2006 just a few days earlier.
KU coach Bill Self said the victory was KU's second best of the season — right behind Duke — and seemed pleased with the way a couple of his younger guys stepped up when KU really needed them to.
That leads perfectly into the meat of this feature, so, without further ado, I give you the first installment of “The Day After.”
If nothing else, KU proved, once again, that it is capable of responding to a setback with a solid effort. The Jayhawks really needed a good showing at OU and they got it. If this win goes down as the game that jump-started solid seasons for Wayne Selden (24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-10 from downtown) and Conner Frankamp (5 points on 2-of-3 shooting in 13 minutes), the Jayhawks just got a lot better.
Three reasons to smile:
1 - There were still a couple of times when KU let OU push them around, but, for the most part, the Jayhawks were much better inside in this one, out-rebounding the Sooners by 14 and limiting OU to several one-and-done possessions. OU had out-rebounded its previous six opponents by an average of 10 boards per game.
2 - Freshman Conner Frankamp proved that he could be a reliable and productive option at point guard when Naadir Tharpe was forced to sit with three first-half fouls. I'd say giving Frankamp an excessive amount of credit here could be making too much of it, but you've gotta consider all of the factors. The guy did it on the road, against a good team with tough, experienced guards despite entering the night averaging less than seven minutes per outing.
3 - Top-three scorers Andrew Wiggins (1st at 15.3 ppg) and Joel Embiid (3rd at 10.5 ppg) had off nights offensively — combining to shoot just 4-for-13 — yet the Jayhawks still managed to put up 90 points. All of that quality depth that we've talked about all season finally showed up when it truly mattered.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 - If not for 55 percent shooting for the game, including 64 percent shooting in the first half, KU probably would've lost this one. The reason? Defense. Oklahoma got into the paint way too easily and got a lot of open three-point looks. In addition, the Sooners turned it over just nine times. KU isn't going to be able to outscore everybody it plays and the Jayhawks are going to have to toughen up defensively, particularly on the ball, if they want to resemble the teams we've gotten used to seeing around here.
2 - After a breakout game against Georgetown in late December, senior forward Tarik Black has not taken the next step. In the three games since his 17-point, 6-rebound, 20-minute effort against the Hoyas, Black has played just 18 minutes combined and committed six fouls in that time.
3 - Things don't get any easier at any point in the near future. KU returns home for three of its next four games, but those three games come against in-state rival Kansas State (Saturday), No. 11 Oklahoma State (Jan. 18) and No. 7 Baylor (Jan. 20). Sprinkled in between there is a trip to No. 9 Iowa State on Monday.
One thought for the road:
A few quick records of note following Wednesday's victory, which: • Extended KU’s conference-opening winning streak to 23 games dating back to the 1991-92 season
• Made the Kansas-Oklahoma series 140-65 in favor of KU
• Gave the Jayhawks the 18-16 edge over the Sooners in games played in the Lloyd Noble Center
• Improved Bill Self to 12-4 all-time against Oklahoma, 310-63 while at Kansas and 517-169 in his 21st season overall
• Made KU 2,111-816 all-time
KU plays host to K-State at 1 p.m. Saturday in what promises to be another fun and exciting edition of the Sunflower Showdown.