Led by sophomore Brandon Rush’s game high 18 points, Kansas can now point to their 87-57 dismantling of the Cowboys as an example of what can happen when the Jayhawks sustain an effort for an entire game.
Fueled by some tenacious early defense, Kansas actually held Oklahoma State without a field goal from the 16:06 mark of the first half until 7:50 remained. During that time, the Jayhawks went on a 19-5 run, built an early 20 point lead and never looked back as they essentially ended the game before it had even really gotten started.
“"We jumped on them early,” said Rush during postgame interviews. “They were warming up before the second half like the game was over. It looked like they didn't have any confidence."
On a night where Kansas honored former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton, the Jayhawks were anything but hospitable and their suffocating defense had a lot to do with it.
Cowboys stars Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry were held to a combined 7-24 FG and just 20 points. As a team, the Cowboys only managed to shoot 32.1% from the field and they were outscored 48-18 in the paint. Adding the their troubles were 17 Jayhawk steals that allowed Kansas to enjoy an 18-0 advantage on the fastbreak and a 23-8 advantage in points off of turnovers.
According to head coach Bill Self, his team executed the game plan about as well as could be expected and junior big man Sasha Kaun scoring 14 of his 16 points in the first half had a lot to do with it.
"The game plan was to give their big guys something to guard, but we got a couple of easy baskets early off of screen plays,” said Self. “Then when Sasha (Kaun) had a two-to-three minute stretch where he kind of took over, then we were making a conscious effort to go inside because (Mario) Boggan had two fouls. He's a terrific player and we did a great job on him tonight and JamesOn (Curry) is a great player and we did a terrific job on him.
Maybe the only problem on the night was some early foul trouble. With starting point guard Russell Robinson saddled with early fouls and the big man rotation picking up some cheapies, the Jayhawk bench more than made up for any foul troubles.
Freshman guard Sherron Collins came off the bench to drop in 10 points and dish out six assists in 22 minutes. Meanwhile, six-foot-eight inch junior forward Darnell Jackson scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds during 19 minutes while punctuating his pefect shooting night (5-5 FG) with a ferocious tip jam.
Collins was pleased with how he performed in his first conference game. He also noted the tremendous effort of the sellout crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
"It was a lot of fun, this was the loudest I have heard Allen Fieldhouse,” said the Chicago native. “ All my teammates were telling me how loud it was going to be and I enjoyed it."
After opening conference play with a bang to move to 14-2 overall (1-0 in conference), the Jayhawks will travel to Ames, IA on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip where they’ll face an Iowa State squad that has jumped out to a 2-0 start in the Big 12.
Self is hopeful that the chemistry displayed during the Oklahoma State game continues on the road.
"It was pretty good. We're not going to play that well, making shots and having things fall right for us every game, but there was certainly great intensity,” said Self. “Guys were ready to play and we've been getting better. Now we've got to take our show on the road.”