All but unstoppable to start his career-high night, freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr., sent a spark through the Jayhawk offense to ignite No. 18/20 Kansas past Oklahoma to open Big 12 Conference play with a 90-83 win, Wednesday evening inside the Lloyd Noble Center.
Kansas (10-4, 1-0) opened conference action on the road for the first time in three years and was forced to do so against an Oklahoma (12-3, 1-1) squad that entered the evening as the best-scoring team in the league. With an inevitable high-scoring night ahead, the Jayhawks embraced it. Surpassing the 90-point mark for the third time this season, and the first time in a conference-road opener since 2002, KU was charged by a season-high tying eight three-pointers – thanks in large part to Selden.
Aside from his career-high 24 points, Selden hit six of his first eight shots and tied KU’s season-high with nine field goals on 17 attempts, but was even more impressive from three-point territory. His five treys marked the most by a Jayhawk this season. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis joined him on the leaderboard with his second double-double of the year with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He led the Jayhawks’ season-best 80 percent effort at the free throw line (24-for-30), by hitting 10 of his 12 attempts.
Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe provided additional ammo with his 17 points as he and freshman guard Conner Frankamp teamed up to provide the other three three-pointers made by someone other than Selden.
Oklahoma senior guard Cameron Clark, the Big 12’s third-leading scorer, led the floor on Wednesday night. His 32 points included a nearly seven-minute stretch in the second half where he did all of his team’s scoring. He was joined by sophomore guard Buddy Hield’s 18 points as the offensive leaders.
As a unit, Kansas outrebounded Oklahoma by an impressive 36-22 margin, Oklahoma’s lowest output on the boards this season.
Not seven minutes into the high-tempo contest, Selden already had a new career-high in three pointers when his third long ball put the Jayhawks up, 20-14. When Frank Booker answered with a three on the other end, Selden came right back with a layup. He laid in yet another after a Jamari Traylor block resulted in a fastbreak for his 15th point – tying his previous career high – in just eight minutes.
Meanwhile, his teammates were equally hot-handed as they got out to a 10-of-12 shooting start and a 20-11 lead. As predicted, the Sooners continued to score despite a shooting percentage that stayed below 50 percent for the entirety of the first half. A pair of free throws knotted the game at 37-37 with just under four minutes remaining in the opening frame.
High-powered offense led to high-powered scoring and, ultimately, high-powered emotions. Oklahoma shook off its 10-for-22 shooting effort in the first half by taking advantage of its 22 trips to the line. The Sooners went 19-for-22 from the line after Kansas fell into the double bonus early in the game. By the time Wiggins was called for a foul away from the ball, those emotions found their outlet in a technical foul called on head coach Bill Self. After controlling the lead for much of the first half, Kansas watched OU take the lead on the ensuing free throws, 43-39.
This time it was Self’s turn to provide the spark. After play resumed following the technical shots, Ellis knocked down four-straight free throws and was the reason behind the steal that ended up in Frankamp’s hands, who responded with his first three-pointer in more than a month. He hit another jumper in the final seconds to fuel the Jayhawks’ 11-1 run that closed the first half in favor of Kansas, 50-44.
The Sooners restarted following the break, knocking down five of their first eight attempts, but struggled to keep pace with Kansas. Although Selden’s scoring was front-heavy in the first half, he swung right back into action to start the second. The freshman’s back-to-back three-pointers quickly pushed the KU lead past the 10-point mark, 65-54.
Ignoring OU’s attempt to protect its home court, the Jayhawks kept the tempo to their liking and stayed in front by double-digits for the majority of the second half. Clark turned a KU turnover into a pull-up jumper on Oklahoma’s end to cut into the lead, 74-67. Ellis came back with a layup, but the Sooners were picking up steam – led completely by Clark. A free throw followed by four-straight baskets saw Clark bring his team to within four, 76-72, forcing a Kansas timeout.
While Clark kept coming at Kansas, Kansas kept coming at him. Tharpe was crucial. His second three-pointer of the game kicked the lead back out to seven, and he nailed a jumpshot on the next trip down the floor to put KU up 83-75 just under the five-minute mark.
Oklahoma kept clawing, but Kansas didn’t budge. Free throws from Tharpe and Ellis pushed KU to the 90-point mark and a final block from Wiggins ended the night with a Jayhawk road win, 90-83.
Kansas returns home to host No. 25 Kansas State on Saturday, Jan. 11, at 1 p.m. on ESPN. The Jayhawks will have a short turnaround after the K-State contest as they will play their first of four ESPN Big Monday games at No. 9/7 Iowa State on Jan. 13 at 8 p.m. Kansas and No. 11/12 Oklahoma State were co-preseason Big 12 favorites and the Cowboys will come to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m. on CBS.
Head Coach Bill Self on the Jayhawk Radio Network Postgame.
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