Saturday's game shaped up as a showcase of major talent, none more intriguing than the matchup of OSU's Marcus Smart and KU's Andrew Wiggins.
Smart is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year; Wiggins the preseason Freshman of the Year and a possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick. Each was a preseason All-American who entered leading their teams in scoring.
And then there were the October comments of Smart, questioning all the hype heaped on Wiggins before his first collegiate game.
So the anticipation of their first meeting was massive.
Then the game didn't deliver.
In KU's 80-78 win, Wiggins struggled through his worst performance as a Jayhawk, finishing with three points on 1 of 5 shooting, and two rebounds in 23 minutes.
Smart had a rough shooting afternoon, going 3 of 14 from the floor, yet still impacted the game with a near triple-double. He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, with four steals in 39 minutes.
“Marcus Smart played great today,” KU coach Bill Self said. “And he didn't make shots. He controlled the game, he impacted it …”
EMOTIONS FLY ON BOTH SIDES
OSU won in Lawrence a year ago, and the Jayhawks won in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The two teams entered this season as co-favorites in the league, with some extracurricular items fueling the rivalry further.
And it bubbled over on the floor Saturday, with the teams combining for six technical fouls and one flagrant foul.
“I think there was a little bit of an attitude by both teams, especially early,” Self said.
Nobody on either side thought play was dirty, just spirited.
“Oh, this is an emotional game,” Smart said. “You play with your heart, your body, all that. It's a passionate game. And a game like this, as hyped up as it was, we had two teams coming in, two great teams with talented players. So obviously you're going to have emotions flying everywhere.
“We lost our cool a couple times, at key moments of the game. We need to keep our cool and just play.”
The Cowboys may have been affected most by the technicals, with Markel Brown called for two, the second ending his afternoon with 3:57 to play. Brown had been one of OSU's top scoring options in the second half.
UP NEXT: WEST VIRGINIA
The Cowboys get some time off before returning home to face West Virginia on Saturday.
Game time is 1 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
OSU has already beaten the Mountaineers, 73-72, back on Jan. 11.
After facing WVU, the Cowboys have a quick turnaround, playing at Oklahoma in a Big Monday contest on Jan. 27.
EMBIID LEAVES HIS MARK
For all the chatter revolving around Smart and Wiggins, KU's Joel Embiid seized the spotlight.
The 7-foot freshman was dominant in every way, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
“When you have eight (blocks), I'd say he made a difference, there's no question,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “He makes it a little more difficult to score (inside), especially on some layups and different things. When you think you might have something, he came from weak side a couple times and made some nice blocks when we thought we had gotten in a seam.
“It wasn't always him just sitting there waiting on us. He came from nowhere a couple times, which was impressive. He's so talented; he's so good.”
Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe also was a difference-maker, scoring a team-high 21 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the floor.