OU falls short in upset bid of Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- When sophomore Isaiah Cousins found a wide open Tyler Neal behind the 3-point line, and Neal hit the shot, Oklahoma's upset bid felt real.
Neal's trey put the Sooners up 58-54 with 10:48 left to play, proving for the second time this season OU can play with jewel of the Big 12. But that was as close as the Sooners would come to beating No. 5 Kansas.
They'd get 18 points out of senior Cameron Clark on 6-of-15 shooting. They'd get 16 points out of sophomore Buddy Hield on 6-of-13 shooting, and they'd get 10 points and six assists out of freshman Jordan Woodard who surpassed former Sooners Wayman Tisdale and Jeff Webster for most made free throws in a season by an OU freshman.
17 of the Sooners 27 made buckets would be assisted, and sophomore Ryan Spangler would fall just one point and one board short of a double-double, though he admitted the KU bigs got the best of him.
"It's fun to battle with them," he said. "I lost some today. I'll try to work on that."
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The Sooners' bench would outscore KU's bench. They would score more fast break points than the Jayhawks, and they'd score more on second chance opportunities than them.
But that's not enough to beat Kansas at the Phog. No one knew that more than Clark.
"They made a couple shots," Clark said. "We made a couple shots, but I think the main thing is we didn't take care of the ball in critical times. We just gotta learn from that."
All five Jayhawk starters finished in double figures scoring en route to KU's 83-75 win against Oklahoma on Monday night. The win clinched Kansas' 10th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
"That's just a phenomenal accomplishment," said OU coach Lon Kruger. "It's not like you're doing that in a bad league. They've done it in a very good league with a lot of other good teams through the 10 years."
The Sooners were punched in the mouth early and looked stunned by the blow going down 15-4 in the first six minutes of the game. But they collected themselves, mounted a 13-2 run and tied the game with a 3-pointer from Hield. It was the only trey that fell for the Sooners in the first half.
Oklahoma road that momentum into a 27-25 lead when Woodard drove toward the bucket and laid one in. The Sooners stretched that lead to four points while Kansas continued to foul them.
KU committed 12 fouls in the first half. Two apiece sent starting point guard Naadir Tharpe and freshman swingman Andrew Wiggins to the bench for much of the first half.
That was the time for the Sooners to put some distance in between themselves and the Jayhawks. Instead, they returned the favor KU had done them with fouls late in the first half.
The Jayhawks knew enough not look a gift horse in the mouth. They made five free throws in the final 3:06 of the first half to take a 36-33 lead with 1:16 left in the half.
Then Kansas did what the Sooners couldn't. They separated themselves from OU.
KU guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden each hit 3-pointers in the final minute of the game to give Kansas the 42-33 lead at halftime. A crowd who grew agitated and irritated with the plucky men from Norman were back to making their presence felt in the sold out gym.
So the Sooners did what a team must to silence a partisan crowd -- score and score often. Oklahoma opened the second half with a 10-2 scoring run, and with 17:54 left in the game trailed by just one.
The Sooners rode that momentum to a lead but lost steam down the stretch just as KU began playing its best basketball of the night, and Jayhawk guard Naadir Tharpe hit his stride.
In the final six minutes of the game, Tharpe scored 11 of Kansas' final 17 points. Self said Tharpe closed the game the way point guards are supposed to, and perhaps that's true.
Tonight though, KU had the best team in the league. That's been true much more often than it hasn't.
"We've had so many good players," said KU coach Bill Self. "It's been a great run. You don't win unless you have better guys than the other guys, and we've had better guys."