On to the Semis

Here's an equation for you – two teams playing good defense equals ugly basketball. Kansas and Oklahoma State were embroiled in a battle of wills, each trying to pressure the other out of its offense. It doesn't make for the most artistic displays of offense but it was a hard fought battle that eventually went the Jayhawks way, 63-62.

The last time Kansas faced Oklahoma State, the Cowboys were fresh off the news about Eddie Sutton, and they were reeling. The Jayhawks walked into Stillwater and came away with a 64-49 victory. Since then, the Cowboys have stuck to their guns and were 4-2 in their last six including an impressive win against Texas, and a controversial loss at Oklahoma.

KU knew this would be no walkover.

Across the college basketball landscape, some of the top seeds have come out flat and uninspired. Tenacious defense is so important in the postseason and the lack of it is the reason some of the nation’s “best” teams are spending the weekend watching on TV like you and me.

But the second-seeded Jayhawks came out in attack mode with suffocating defense and a spring in their step. KU had a nine point lead, lost it, and then took it back into the locker room thanks to 14 fast break points in the first 20 minutes. This was a game of runs and neither team was done.

The second half got physical and Russell Robinson will have the stitches to show for it. Robinson was hit in the head by a JamesOn Curry elbow and went to the bench with blood pouring out of a gash above his eye.

“If he was a boxer they would’ve called the fight,” Self said about his sophomore guard.  “I don’t know how many (stitches) he’ll need. But he’s tough. Look at his line, he didn’t shoot it well but eight assists, and seven steals. I’m sure he’ll be fine for tomorrow.”

If I told you KU was out-rebounded (41-35), Brandon Rush would score six points, and Mario Chalmers and Robinson would combine for 6-20 shooting and eight turnovers, would you think KU was victorious in this one? Probably not.

But this game had a little bit of everything and a lot of resiliency by both teams.

“I thought it was two teams playing really hard. They really pressured us out of what we wanted to do,” Self concluded after the game.

Kansas featured some spotty free throw shooting down the stretch (18-30 FT for the game), and endured 18 turnovers. But Self can’t complain about the type of production he got out of sophomore center Sasha Kaun. Earlier in the week the KU coach stated his big guys needed to produce for the Jayhawks to sustain success in the postseason. Relying solely on the perimeter would’ve meant an “L” on a night like this one, but Kaun scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting, and had five rebounds. Kansas outscored the Cowboys 38-20 in the paint.

That being said, this one wasn’t over until the final buzzer sounded, which was kind of late after two long delays thanks to the officials. With Kansas up one, and 1.3 on the clock Julian Wright ran into a Cowboy player who fell to the ground. The OSU fans and coaching staff were calling for a foul. Self felt there was no controversy over the no-call.

“I didn’t know there was a controversial play. Two guys fell down. I don’t believe for a second that it was a charge,” said Self whose team will face Nebraska, today in the semifinals.


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