Fifth-ranked Kansas clinched at least a share of the conference
title Monday, its 10th in a row, by holding off Oklahoma 83-75 in
"Our guys have done great," said Bill Self, who coached Kansas to
each of those titles and is in his 11th season. "In a league this
competitive and ranked by some to be the hardest in the country, to
have a three-game lead with three left is special."
Oklahoma did not make it easy. The Sooners kept the game tight
throughout the second half after coming out of the break on a 9-2
run. A follow shot by freshman guard Andrew Wiggins with 8:43 left
gave the Jayhawks a 60-59 advantage, and they maintained the lead
the rest of the game.
The win was the fourth in a row and sixth in seven games for Kansas
(22-6, 13-2 Big 12). Oklahoma (20-8, 9-6) could have claimed sole
possession of second place with a win but instead fell to fourth,
behind No. 15 Iowa State and No. 24 Texas. The Cyclones and
Longhorns are both 9-5.
Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe paced the Jayhawks with 19 points,
though each of the Kansas starters scored in double figures. Wiggins
netted 15 points, as did freshman guard Wayne Selden. Freshman
center Joel Embiid added a double-double with 12 points and 13
rebounds, while sophomore forward Perry Ellis added 11 points.
Tharpe, who also had a team-high five assists, converted a
fast-break layup with 3:15 remaining, then added a pull-up jumper at
the 2:20 mark and drove for another hoop with 56 seconds left.
Wiggins nailed a 3-pointer with 2:43 remaining as the Jayhawks
scored field goals on four straight trips to break away late.
Before dribbling out the clock on the last possession, Kansas scored
on seven consecutive trips. Tharpe went 4-for-4 from the foul line
for the final points.
"In the last 10 minutes of the game, that's as good as Naadir has
been at KU," Self said.
Fitting, really. Tharpe is the most experienced player in the Kansas
rotation, a veteran who enlightened several talented freshmen
regarding the program's rich tradition.
Coming out of each time out, Tharpe said, even during summer
workouts, the Jayhawks chant, "Big 12 champs." Yet in maintaining
that streak, Tharpe denied that the massive assortment of Big 12
trophies, part of 57 conference titles the Jayhawks have earned
overall, created any undue pressure.
"It shouldn't be any pressure," Tharpe said. "We're playing
basketball and having fun. Everything else should just take care of
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Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who grew accustomed to the difficult
atmosphere at Kansas as a three-time All-Big Eight pick for Kansas
State, called the Jayhawks' string of Big 12 titles phenomenal.
"Kansas is so tough here for a lot of reasons," Kruger said. "Bill
does a great job, they are very talented, the crowd is great and
you've got to deal with the runs they make. ... We gave them those
moments ... that you have to avoid."
Senior guard Cameron Clark netted 18 points to pace the Sooners, who
gave Kansas a scare after falling to the Jayhawks 90-83 on Jan. 8.
That game served as Kansas' league opener. Since then, the Jayhawks
mounted another run to a Big 12 title by winning all their
conference home games. In addition, Monday's win against Oklahoma
was the Jayhawks' 12th in the past 13 meetings.
There was no postgame celebration. The Jayhawks still want to win
the crown outright, and they get their first crack Saturday at
Oklahoma State, against a Cowboys team that was picked as the Big 12
co-favorite with Kansas in a preseason media poll. Kansas shared
four of its previous Big 12 titles with league rivals, including
last season with Kansas State.
"The players didn't stay out (on the court) to celebrate, and I told
our guys we will celebrate whenever we win it," Self said. "Right
now all we have done is tie, but it's pretty good to be 13-2 in this
NOTES: By guaranteeing at least a share of its 10th Big 12
championship, Kansas moved into third on the list of longest
championship streaks. The longer runs belong to UCLA (13, Pac-10,
1967-79) and Gonzaga (11, West Coast, 2001-11). ... Among teams with
active streaks of conference championships, Belmont and Murray State
rank second nationally with four each. ... The Jayhawks' string of
league titles began in 2005. ... Kansas is the only Big 12 program
with a winning record against Oklahoma. The Jayhawks hold a 141-65
advantage in the series. ... Oklahoma is the only program in the
nation that has started the same lineup in every game this season.
Each starter averages in double-figure scoring, and the first five
account for 77 percent of the team's points.
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