The usual cliches were being thrown around after the Kansas Jayhawks survived the Oklahoma Sooners 106-103 in triple overtime before an ESPN “Big Monday” national audience.
• Instant classic
• Game of the decade
• Game for the ages
• It’s too bad somebody had to lose
• No losers on this night
• I’m glad that foul on Landen Lucas didn’t decide the game (not a cliche, per say, but equally appropriate)
They all work for me.
It was a showdown of No. 1 vs. No. 2, though the polls differed. The writers liked the once-beaten Jayhawks while the coaches were in favor of the undefeated Sooners.
Let’s now make them 1 and 1A.
Kansas, as expected, fed off its high-voltage crowd to lead by as many as 11 points in the first half before the uber-experienced Sooners stormed back — aided by a Bill Self technical — to lead 44-40 at the break, which allowed everyone to catch their breath.
KU fell behind as many as 10 points in the second half, but anyone who has followed Jayhawk basketball for 50 years such as myself knew it wouldn’t go quietly into the fog (or Phog in this case).
The Jayhawks’ defense got them back into the game in a heartbeat and then the teams began to slug it out. You could just see the tired legs by the second and third overtimes as neither Self nor Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger dared to substitute, though Self has the much deeper team.
There were countless big plays in the game, but the biggest was made by the smallest player on the court when KU’s Frank Mason forced a turnover on OU’s Buddy Hield with the Jayhawks up one late in the third OT. Hield had one more chance at the end to tie the game, but he had run out of magic.
I don’t think another collegian this year will approach the performance Hield put on. There may be somebody who exceeds his 46 points, but to hit so many high-pressure shots with the pugnacious Mason dogging him from end line to end line speaks of his talent. He was hardly a blue-chipper coming out of Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, but his work ethic and positive attitude have caused his stock to rise to blue in the eyes of the NBA scouts.
It’s hard to believe this was only the second of 18 Big 12 games for KU and OU. The Jayhawks fortunately started at home against ranked teams Baylor and OU. The Sooners had Iowa State at home and then went to Kansas. You have to wonder if the grind of these games will eventually wear these teams down in March as the Big 12 will be a gauntlet.
This game probably would carry more magnitude if it came later in the season. But the fans were the biggest winner on this night as the teams put them through the full gamut of emotions. Those smart enough to set their recorders will certainly play this one back over and over.