For a couple of weeks, Kansas coach Bill Self had been warning everyone that his Jayhawks were flirting with disaster, despite an 18-game winning streak and a number one ranking in the Coaches Poll.
Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse, everyone was witnessed to Self’s warning, as the Jayhawks’ luck finally ran out in an 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State.
The loss not only snapped the 18-game winning streak, but also their 33-game home winning streak, dating back to a 2011 loss to Texas.
“I think we can learn from it,” senior Kevin Young said. “Like coach said, we’ve been playing on borrowed time. We’ve been cutting it close a lot and it was bound to happen., but, now that it did, like Jeff (Withey) said, we just have to spin it to a positive and come out and get better tomorrow in practice.”
The unranked Cowboys were able to pull off the upset thanks to guards Markel Brown and Marcus Smart. Brown was on fire in the first half, hitting five three pointers, en route to 22 points. He finished with 28. Smart did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 15 points to finish with 25.
However, it was Smart’s work on the boards that did Kansas in. He collected nine rebounds for the game, with eight of them coming on offense. Two in particular pushed the Cowboys to victory.
With under 2:30 to play, Smart pulled down offensive rebounds and scored on putbacks on consecutive possessions. The first one came off a missed shot by Brown, the second off a missed free throw. Those two sequences put Oklahoma State up five and demonstrated the physicality the Cowboys showed all afternoon.
“He was terrific down the stretch and he definitely whipped our guards, I mean he whipped them. That was a physical beatdown that he put on our guys,” Self said. “And also on the free throw block. You have 6-8 blocking him out and he just scores right over them on a free throw block out. That was a soft team playing a very aggressive, tough team.”
Oklahoma State was not intimidated by the sellout crowd of 16,300 in Allen Fieldhouse. They raced out of the gate and held a 26-12 lead nine minutes in. Kansas would cut it to 40-34 at halftime and seemed poised to take command and pull away.
In fact, the Jayhawks outscored the Cowboys 30-20 to take a 64-60 lead on a three pointer by guard Naadir Tharpe with 7:12 remaining. Kansas would not make another field goal until there were just 50 seconds remaining and by that time, it was desperation time, as they fell behind eight, before a Ben McLemore three cut it to five.
Aside from the physical beating the Cowboys administered, Kansas (18-2, 7-1) was equally done in by turnovers, McLemore, Withey and Elijah Johnson each committed four turnovers and for Johnson, the day was a nightmare.
He shot three of 14 from the field in addition to the turnovers and to make matters worse, fumbled away the Jayhawks last gasp with under five seconds left, down by three. Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte, who hit big free throws down the stretch raced away and laid the ball in at the buzzer to provide an exclamation point to the big win for his team and program. The sequence was a microcosm of his day.
“I though they’d foul and they didn’t foul. They backed off and Elijah had a wide open three,” Self said. “All he had to do was bounce it and shoot it.”
Kansas committed 16 turnovers for the game to only 15 assists and despite outrebounding Oklahoma State (15-5, 5-3) 41-40 for the game, they were beaten 20-12 in the second half, including an 11-3 advantage on the offensive glass.
The Cowboys scored a big program win for fifth year coach Travis Ford, while the Jayhawks will go back to the drawing board and look to rebound Wednesday night at TCU.