"I was getting down on the team a little bit because they (Oklahoma) kept scoring back-to-back and the lead kept getting higher,” said Rush. “We just came together and the shots started falling and we started locking down on defense. The game went our way. As the lead got higher I thought the game was done but we just came back and started to get focused and the shots started falling for us."
As confident as Self may have been in the huddle, his confidence wasn’t shared by many in the building. After all, Kelvin Sampson’s experienced Sooner squad had spent the first 30 minutes of the game manhandling the young Jayhawks on both ends of the court. Led by their senior duo of Taj Grey (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Terrell Everett (14 points, seven rebounds), Oklahoma took the game right at Kansas.
The result was a rattled Kansas team that struggled to make simple passes or keep the Sooners off of the offensive glass.
According to Self, the game reminded him of another recent Jayhawk comeback in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I told our guys on the bench, the assistant coaches, that this feels just like the Georgia Tech game,” said Self of win. “We played terrible. Oklahoma made us play bad and totally dominated us for 32 minutes. Then we played as well as we possibly could over the final eight minutes or so.”
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Sooner junior David Godbold connected on a three to extend Oklahoma’s advantage to 53-38. But instead of calling it quits, Kansas responded with a 15-0 run started by three of Rush’s game high 18 points on a three from the wing. Another Rush basket, some key free throws from junior C.J. Giles and a few dunks from Julian Wright and Kansas was right back in it.
Wright’s follow up basket with just 53 seconds to go made the score 57-55 Kansas and gave the Hawks their first lead of the game.
“There was somewhat bad body language from all of us but coach said to knock it off,” said the 6-8 freshman from Chicago Heights, IL who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. “It starts with the head coach. He was confident and it transferred down to us. He was confident and so were we that we could come back and win a close game.”
Soon after Kansas took its first lead, Sooners junior guard Michael Neal pumped home the final three of his 11 points on a deep three from the baseline. The shot propelled Oklahoma back ahead 58-57 with just 27 seconds left.
Following the shot Chalmers -- who scored 10 points and dished out four assists to go along with eight turnovers -- raced down the court expecting that Self would call a timeout to set up a final shot. Instead Self decided to let his team play and the 6-2 freshman guard from Anchorage delivered with a clutch shot to secure the final margin of victory.
“I looked at coach and he said to push the ball,” said Chalmers of his game winning shot. “I got to the paint and Bookout fell and fortunately I was able to hit the shot.”
Even after Chalmers’ huge shot, Kansas had plenty of work left. Rush blocked a jumper by Everett and then looked to have secured the game by soaring above the crowd to secure a rebound with just 1.6 seconds remaining after Everett missed a follow up shot.
However, instead of a foul, officials ruled that Rush had been tied up which awarded the ball to the Sooners on the possession arrow. Inbounding underneath the basket, Oklahoma found Gray who was immediately fouled by Giles leaving just one second for Oklahoma to get a final shot off.
The final shot, a deep three by Neal, fell harmlessly short touching off a wild celebration by Kansas at mid court.
After the game, opinions differed as to whether it was Chalmers shot or Rush’s block which was the biggest play of the game.
“I think it (the block) was the biggest play of the game,” chuckled Rush as he looked at Chalmers. “I thought he (Everett) was going to keep driving but he shot it and I managed to contest it.”
Thanks to some prodding from Rush, a smiling Chalmers eventually agreed that the block was huge saying that Rush’s block was the biggest play of the game.
Even though both Rush and Chalmers’ plays were huge, there were several other plays that factored into securing the Jayhawks 13th win in their last 15 games.
"I think the (biggest) play was where C.J. (Giles) and Brandon (Rush) trapped (Terrell) Everett at half court and I was able to sneak in a get the steal and the lay-up,” said Chalmers. “We just kept running after that."
Speaking of Giles, Self was quick to point out that the 6-10 sophomore delivered some huge plays despite his relatively limited playing time and recent struggles.
“He was great, C.J. had three blocks I think,” said Self of Giles, who blocked three shots and grabbed five rebounds in just 12 minutes. “He had those three blocks and altered another four or five shots in 12 minutes. Maybe this is what he needed to get going.”
With the win Kansas moves to 6-2 in the Big 12 and 15-6 overall. Standing alone at second place in the Big 12 the Jayhawks next play at Nebraska and Giles feels that the confidence gained during the big comeback is something that he and his teammates can build on.
“Hopefully, we earned a little (respect). I know that we have all year to prove that. We have a lot more games to play as well as Texas,” said the Seattle native. “That will be a real big challenge for us so we just really need to focus on our next game. It was a good game and we are all real happy but we can't get to big-headed because of this one.”