Kansas men’s basketball held on to defeat Oklahoma 63-59 in a thrilling defensive battle at home Saturday.
Offensively, the Jayhawks struggled at times to score and failed to take care of the ball with 16 turnovers. However, Kansas stepped up on defense when it mattered and ended the game with six blocks and five steals.
Junior forward David McCormack was Kansas’ most impressive player, leading the team with 17 points and shooting 8-for-14 from the field. He was followed by junior guard Ochai Agbaji with 14 points and redshirt freshman forward Jalen Wilson with nine points. Redshirt senior forward Mitch Lightfoot and senior guard Marcus Garrett also scored seven points a piece.
Oklahoma started the game hot, forcing Kansas coach Bill Self to take a timeout trailing 9-2 less than three minutes into the game. Senior guard Austin Reaves got going on this run for the Sooners with five points, including a three-pointer.
Agbaji then knocked in Kansas’ first three-pointer of the game, but the Sooners stayed in control early, extending their lead to 15-9. But the Jayhawks quickly responded with an 11-0 run of their own — led by Lightfoot with four points — to give Kansas a 20-15 lead.
Oklahoma then went on a 7-0 run of its own to retake the lead at 22-20. Senior forward Kur Kuath knocked in the first three-pointer of his career during this run, and Reaves added a pair of free throws.
The back-and-forth theme continued, as Kansas took the lead right back with a 7-0 run to make it 27-22 with 7:20 remaining in the half. The run was highlighted by a deep three-pointer from sophomore guard Christian Braun, who finished with five points and nine rebounds.
In the last 5:32 of the half, Kansas offense was stagnant, making just two baskets during that span. Wilson had back-to-back turnovers to close out the half, which led to Oklahoma taking 33-31 lead at halftime.
Kansas had 10 turnovers in the first half and struggled to run an efficient offense. McCormack was a bright spot in the first half with a team-high eight points, followed by Agbaji with six points and Braun with five. Wilson struggled in the first half for Kansas with just two points and six turnovers.
Reaves led Oklahoma at the break with 15 points and scored the go-ahead layup in the final seconds to send the Sooners into halftime with a two-point lead.
Kansas started the second half on the right foot with a jumper and made free throw by McCormack. A layup by Oklahoma senior guard Alondes Williams narrowed the Kansas lead to 38-36 with 16:39 left to play.
Agbaji continued Kansas' hot start in the second half, nailing back-to-back three-pointers. Lightfoot added a basket inside to extend the lead to seven points and make it a 15-6 run for the Jayhawks to start the half.
Midway through the second half, both teams struggled to score. The Jayhawks went a staggering 5:06 without scoring a point, which allowed the Sooners to narrow the lead despite their own offensive woes. Wilson ended the drought with a free-throw make, but Kauth nailed a jump shot to tie the game up at 49-49 with 7:03 left in the game.
Wilson stepped up for Kansas despite struggling throughout the game and nailed a huge three-pointer to give Kansas some life. However, Oklahoma responded with back-to-back three-pointers of its own to take a 55-54 lead heading into a timeout with 3:40 remaining.
Out of the break, the two teams traded baskets. McCormack then made a huge basket to put Kansas up by two, and Wilson knocked in another clutch three-pointer to make it 61-57 with 1:28 left in the game.
On the other end, Oklahoma’s Kauth slammed in a put-back dunk to bring the Sooners within two points. McCormack then sealed the game for Kansas with a jumper at the end of the shot clock, and Oklahoma failed to score on its last look at the basket.
Next up for Kansas will be a road game against Oklahoma State Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.