Head Coach Bill Self felt a negative shift in momentum with just under 15 minutes left in the second half. It was time for the third year coach to unveil his secret weapon.
The Jayhawks are primarily a man-to-man team but every once in awhile to help swing momentum, Self uses a 3-2 zone. It’s amazing how just 1-2-3 possessions of it can completely change the flow of a game. It’s worked for Self before and it did again in this one.
After JamesOn Curry hit a three and looked like he wanted to take over the game, Self called a 20-second timeout and decided to go zone. Kansas was down 3. Oklahoma State promptly missed their next three shots in the half court. Suddenly the only way the Cowboys were putting points on the board was in transition. Though KU went back to its more traditional man-to-man, the strategic defensive move changed the complexion of the game. Curry and Co. went 6-22 from the floor for the remainder of this one.
The defensive maneuver also sparked a stagnant KU offense. Kansas outscored Oklahoma State 30-18 the rest of the way including an impressive 24-9 run. Prior to the run the Jayhawk offense spent too much time looking to beat a sound Oklahoma State team off the dribble -- and had the turnovers to show for it. Defense is the mantra at OSU and one-on-one doesn’t work against an OSU squad that will pressure the ball and overplay passing lanes.
Julian Wright got it and provided a huge spark. For a key two-minute stretch of the second half, the 6-9 freshman dominated play yet only scored two points.
Julian’s dominant stretch started with a put-back dunk with 5:39 left increasing the Kansas lead to 5 (49-44) -- he fed Sasha Kaun for a dunk and the lead was seven (51-44)-- he grabbed a defensive rebound off a Byron Eaton missed three --then he fed Kaun again for another jam to make the score 53-44 -- he fed Mario Chalmers for a layup and the lead was now 11, finally he secured a defensive rebound and really should’ve had another pretty assist but Sasha Kaun fumbled one causing a turnover. Julian put on an absolute clinic.
When Self talks about Wright he beams about what the future might hold for his freshman McDonald’s All-American. He refers to just how good the versatile four-man can be, but tends to talk in the future tense. For Julian, tonight the future was now and the Jayhawks picked up an important “W”.