Kansas beat OSU 77-70 in overtime Thursday in another of a long line of Cowboy-Jayhawk classics and another in a long line of OSU heartbreaks against KU in the Big 12 Tournament. Here’s what I saw and heard:
* It’s time that college coaches learned the simple math of the 2-for-1. Get two shots to your opponents, one in the final countdown of the game clock, either first half or second half (or overtime). The NBA has it mastered. College hoops do not.
Remember the situation. OSU and Kansas were tied 67-67 after Andrew Wiggins’ jumper with 1:05 left in the game. Almost perfect for the Cowboys. Sixty-five seconds left. If OSU shoots before the, say, 0:40 mark, then Kansas could not hold for the last shot. The Cowboys would get the ball last, barring a foul or an offensive rebound. Shooting around 0:45 would be ideal.
At 0:54, OSU used its last timeout. OK, set up for a quick shot. But no. The Cowboys worked the clock down below 0:35 before Marcus Smart tried a have-to-take it 3-pointer. It bounced off and Kansas held for the last shot. You know the rest. Wiggins threw up a have-to-take-it 3-pointer, and Tarik Black’s putback came just after the buzzer.
So to overtime we went. But why not go 2-for-1? Why not, coming out of that timeout, have Smart or Markel Brown or even Phil Forte drive the ball immediately? The Cowboys have some penetrators. Force the issue. Try to get fouled. Or get up a shot around the 0:50 or 0:45 mark?
Here’s what Travis Ford said: “We ran a play, we got about three options out of it. Phil Forte coming off first, then a cross screen underneath the basket for Le’Bryan (Nash). We actually got it around to Le’Bryan in the post. Phil wasn’t open. We go to Le’Bryan. Then after that, you’ve gotta go to your under 10 seconds offense, the same one everybody else has. You kind of spread the court out and either get a quick ball screen or you try to go one‑on‑one. But no different than their last‑second shot in regulation. Neither team probably wanted the shots that they got. Probably wasn’t the best ones, so no different. But … because we had plenty of time, we ran a play with about three or four different options on it.
It was very good defense on their part.”
This is no direct criticism of Ford. Most college coaches are loathe to embrace the 2-for-1 concept. Maybe because the shot clock is 11 seconds longer than in the NBA. Maybe because a bad shot in college is not the same bad shot in the pros; a bad shot by a collegian can be the same as a turnover, while a pro can throw a bad shot in with ease.
But either way, the 2-for-1 still should be adopted by collegians. Especially in a game like OSU-KU, where both teams were playing excellent defense and baskets were hard to come by. The more shots the better. Look at it this way. Let’s say that OSU had a 42 percent chance of making a shot on the final possession. That’s what OSU was shooting at the time of that possession. Let’s say OSU goes 2-for-1 and takes two quick shots, which is what we’re talking about. Quick coming out of that time, theoretically quick in the final seconds. Let’s put the chances at success for either possession at 30 percent. Well, you only need one of those buckets to fall. So add the percentages. That’s 60 percent. Drop the chances to 25 percent and it’s still a better bet than working for a supposed good shot.
I sat beside an Iowa State official at the game. He said Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg, because of extensive NBA experience, commonly goes 2-for-1 but that most coaches don’t.
* OK, onto the rest of the game. The Cowboys played great, I thought. Here’s the stat of the century. Against a Kansas defense that clearly was playing well and hard, OSU had two turnovers total with three minutes left in regulation. Two turnovers in 37 minutes.
With three minutes left, Smart’s pass to Nash was a little soft, and the Jayhawks swiped it. In overtime, Markel Brown’s pass to Nash was low, then Nash lost the ball in the post. But still. Unbelievable ball security.
“Markel Brown was cramping the whole overtime,” Ford said. “And he drove and kind of stumbled, turned one over to LB, trying to throw it in the post. LB slipped and fell one time. You know, it happens.”
* OSU took a 70-68 lead on Forte’s with 4:08 left in overtime. Then the Cowboys didn’t score again. It’s not like Kansas toe it up in overtime. Black gave KU a 70-70 tie on two foul shots with 3:40 left, then Perry Ellis gave KU the lead on a follow shot, when Forte was the only Cowboy under the basket to block out. Kansas scored via foul shots the rest of the way.
“We competed,” Ford said. “They made a few more shots than we did and defended at times, but we put ourselves in a good opportunity, we just had a few costly turnovers you can’t have in overtime and you gotta rebound in overtime. But our guys gave it up. They gave it up. We had some guys cramping and different things, but, hey, no excuses. We really fought through to the very end and Kansas played well, played really well.”
* I wrote about Wiggins for the Friday Oklahoman. You can read that here. He was sensational. I don’t have much else to say, other than whoever gets him in the NBA Draft is going to be very pleased.
Wiggins had 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting, a game after he scored 41 at West Virginia. The Jayhawks were blown out in Morgantown. What was the difference?
“We guarded better today,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know that our point production was any better today because you’ve got two guys in double figures (Wiggins 30, Wayne Selden Jr. 14 points). I mean, that’s not going to cut it over time. But we did defend better.”
Wiggins guarded Brown most of the game and was effective. Brown made five of 13 shots. He finished with 12 points and two assists.
“Andrew is not one dimensional,” Self said. “He’s our best defender. I thought Markel still played well. He made a couple of really hard shots. That one three he made to give them the lead was a joke how good that was. He (Wiggins) did a good job on them.”
And Selden was good, too. He guarded Smart. “Wayne did a great job on Marcus,” Self said. “He’s going to get in the paint. We fouled him too much the second half, but I thought we did a really good job of playing the scouting report and not stopping a good player but at least controlling him a little bit. Because, in Stillwater, down the stretch, he went nuts on us and we were able to kind of ‑‑ we didn’t allow that to happen again in large part due to Wayne.”
* Despite all the spotlight on Wiggins, Smart was great, too. He didn’t force things – took just four 3-pointers, making one – but Smart did take over when needed. When KU went up 34-23, Smart answered with four straight points, all on drives. Smart became more and more aggressive the longer the game went.
* Kansas played with 7-foot shot blocker Joel Embiid, who dominated the Cowboys in Lawrence but was largely ineffective in Stillwater. Nash, who had 19 points and seven rebounds, said the Cowboys tried to take advantage of Embiid’s absence.
“Coach Ford just made an emphasis; Embiid is a great shot blocker,” Nash said. “When he went out, it’s a good thing. You attack the rim. They really didn’t have no more shot blocks after that. So Coach Ford just made an emphasis on attacking the rim and that’s what I tried to do this game, and then it worked out for me.”
It still wasn’t easy. Kansas has three other talented big men – Ellis, Black and Jamari Traylor, though none are as big as Embiid. The Jayhawks blocked five shots.
* Good news for OSU. Brian Williams played much better. With Kamari Murphy in foul trouble, Williams had to help guard one of the KU big men. Williams or Smart often was guarding one of the Jayhawk post players. Not easy for guys 6-foot-4. But Williams was more active and even took two 14-foot baseline jumpers with authority. He made one of them. The Cowboys need Williams, who has been in a funk for a month.
* All things considered, OSU did a good job on the boards. KU had nine offensive rebounds; OSU had six. KU outscored OSU 11-9 in second-chance points. That’s acceptable. It was 9-9 going into overtime. Ellis’ putback came in transition, when the Cowboys were caught with Forte trying to block out.
* The Cowboys clearly ran out of gas. Kansas had three players log more than 40 minutes – Wiggins 45, Selden 43, Naadir Tharpe 41. The Cowboys had four log more than 40 minutes – Smart 44, Forte and Brown 43 each, Nash 41.
“We’re really proud of our team’s effort,” Ford said. “I thought they played hard, really did. We came out kind of in a little bit of mud, which I expected a little bit after such a quick turnaround. I kept telling our guys in timeout, ‘We’ll get into it. We’ll get into it.’ And we did.
“Give Kansas credit. They played really well. They made big shots down the stretch. Wiggins made a big shot in the corner and he played a heck of a game. They’re just a really good basketball team. But our guys fought really hard, just didn’t have enough left in the tank there late. We fought a lot of adversity. Foul trouble, our (big men), obviously we don’t have a lot of depth there. We were trying to sub offense and defense for a long period of time with LB and Murph was out. And we had guys cramping a little bit. But, hey, no excuses, Kansas deserved it. They made big shots and big rebounds against us. But our guys fought. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of them.”
* Ford should be proud of the Cowboys. They’re short-handed. They’re short in general. Yet they went to the wire with Kansas at the Sprint Center, which isn’t easy.
The Big Eight started a post-season tournament in 1977. So 20 Big Eight Tournaments were played before the Big 12 arrived. All 20 were at KC’s Kemper Arena. Kansas won four of those. And those were glory years – Larry Brown, Roy Williams. Then seven Big 12 Tournaments were played at Kemper. KU won three of those.
So in 27 tournaments played at Kemper, Kansas won seven.
This is the sixth Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center. KU has won four of the five. The Jayhawks now are 13-1 in Big 12 Tournaments at the Sprint Center. Those guys have become tough to beat in Kansas City.
“They’re extreme,” Nash said. “Kansas City is probably like an hour away from Lawrence or something, and it’s just a home game for them. Their fans can get into it. And it’s Kansas and it’s always tough to beat Kansas. They’re a great team. You know, we had our chances. We couldn’t convert them, but I’m proud of my team. We played hard and hopefully we can try and get one next year.” (Hey, did I bury the lead? Is Nash coming back?)
Now Smart on KU’s homecourt advantage: “Like Le’Bryan said, I’m proud of these guys. It’s always hard to beat Kansas, especially in this building. Like he said, they have the fan base to back them up. So, you know, it’s kind of hard. They have that energy and momentum from their fans and it kind of takes the opposing team out of it. But like I said, I’m proud of these guys. We fought to the end. And unfortunately, some plays there we drew up didn’t go right for us. We didn’t convert on them as a team. We let some slip, and Kansas capitalized on the plays that they made.”