Freshman Kelly Oubre Jr.’s sixth free-throw attempt of the game hit soft off the rim and fell into the arms of fellow freshman Cliff Alexander. Alexander found sophomore Frank Mason who kicked it to an open Brannen Greene behind the arc. As Greene tends to do so well, he hit the open three, putting Kansas up on Oklahoma for good, leading the Jayhawks to a 85-78 win.
Everyone in Lawrence knew they were in for something special as Devonte’ Graham’s three-point attempt with 8:18 to play in the first half bounced high off the back of the rim and gently landed in between the net. This was Kansas’ eighth consecutive converted three-point field goal of the first half.
“They made a lot of shots,” Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield said. “Credit to them, everything was falling.”
Graham, Greene and Oubre led the way with two three-pointers each in the first half.
This Kansas team has relied on the three-point shot more than most Bill Self teams in recent memory due to its inability to score the ball inside effectively. The Jayhawks have shot 15 or more three-pointers in 12 out of their first 18 games this season.
When Kansas has been hot from behind the line, it has been hard to beat. Coming into Monday night, the Jayhawks shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc seven times on the season. Not only did those seven games result in seven wins, but they came by a margin of 16.1 points — three points higher than their average win margin.
“When you make your first eight threes, you’re going to score a lot of points,” Self said. “We need to play fast and play with pace to be successful in this league.”
Among players who have played in more than half of the games this season, Mason leads Kansas with a 47.1 field goal percentage from the three-point line. As a team, Kansas shoots 38.9 percent from three.
After an efficient first half of three-point shooting, the Jayhawks cooled off a bit in the second. Much to Kansas’ dismay, just as the Jayhawks cooled off, the Sooners heated up. After going only 3-for-11 from three in the first, Oklahoma sank four of its first five attempts to tie the game with 10 minutes to play.
“We knew we wouldn’t be able to sustain that,” Greene said about the strong first half shooting. “They started making their shots in the second half and we weren’t.”
The Jayhawks abandoned the three ball for a large portion of the second half and relied on their free-throw shooting to keep them in the game after a strong Sooner run saw the game tied with 3:45 to play.
Just as all hope from beyond the arc seemed lost, arguably Kansas’ best deep ball shooter sent a bolt of energy through the Kansas crowd — Greene hit a wide-open three to put Kansas back on top by two.
“I thought it was good,” Greene said. “It was a good rotation in rhythm, it felt good. That’s up there as one of the best shots I’ve made here.
This time, Kansas took the lead for good.
“Brannen played very, very well,” Self said. “He made shots all night that helped us win a great game.”
— Edited by Emma LeGault