You don’t expect too much scoring in College Basketball games, even with a double overtime. Still, the fact that Naadir Tharpe scored the only field goal for Kansas in the double overtime period, which just happened to be the winner, speaks once again about the quality of offensive basketball we get to see these days.
It’s about winning, not about winning pretty. And the Jayhawks needed revenge against Oklahoma State (#14 in the nation) after the Cowboys began the three-loss streak Kansas had to endure and get over, following with three consecutive wins. Two of them, against Kansas State and Texas, weren’t that difficult, by an average of 22.5 points. Against Oklahoma State, in Stillwater, it took 50 minutes and Naadir Tharpe’s hort jumper in the lane with 16.5 seconds left in the second overtime to give Kansas a 68-67 win, now in position to climb back up the rankings after falling to number 9.
It was also crucial for Kansas to come out of this thriller “alive” if they’re hoping to continue and dominate the Big 12. Right now they’re tied with Kansas State for the conference lead at 10-3, and it’s been nine years since the last time the Jayhawks didn’t finish on top of the conference.
The key to Kansas’ win? Despite Ben McLemore scoring only 7 points, a season low for the Freshman, averaging 16.7 points per game before the contest, they got production elsewhere. Jeff Withey showed he has value in more than just defense (14 rebounds, 4 blocks), finishing with 17 points, including 7-8 from the line during both overtimes, scoring most of Kansas’ points. Finally taking Marcus Smart out of the game (fouling out with 2:24 left in the second overtime) proved to be another deciding factor.
It was also the defense on Smart, who did finish with 16 points, but was a terrible 2-14 from the field, usually shooting around the 41% from the field. Despite their ugly offense and troubles in recent times, the Jayhawks remain a fantastic defensive team. Kansas has allowed just .90 points per trip in Big 12 play, better than the .95 points per possession by Oklahoma State.
Tharpe wasn’t supposed to play in the final minutes, but Elijah Johnson (10 points) fouled out, which gave Tharpe, an over anxious shooter who doesn’t really fit in with anything that looks like team play, a chance to close out the game. He was shooting a bad 2-11 on the night, but two of his four points more than made up for all of his misses and bad decisions.
We didn’t really have any offense. Neither team had any offense and he certainly made a huge play there late. Just huge. Biggest play of his life, I’m sure. It’s a huge win for conference implications. I really thought that Oklahoma State had the best path. I’m not saying we couldn’t have won it. We still have the toughest road of anybody. We’re still in the game, though.
It seems Bill Self has his team back in the right direction, after it seemed to some he was losing them during the 3-game losing streak, trying various tactics, including simply calling all of his squad out through the media, which didn’t get the right effect, after the TCU loss and before another one at Oklahoma.
Now, back on top, tied with Kansas State while Oklahoma State sit behind at 9-4, Kansas have TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech at home, while Baylor and Iowa State are waiting on the road. Seems like a good path to finish first once again.