Nobody is safe in the Big 12.
One day after Iowa State knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma and one week after West Virginia beat then-No. 1 Kansas, Oklahoma State stunned the No. 3 Jayhawks in a Tuesday showdown at Gallagher-Iba Arena, 86-67. Jawun Evans led the way with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while Jeff Newberry added 13 points and Jeffrey Carroll chipped in 11 points behind three makes from downtown.
ESPN Stats & Info recognized it was business as usual for Oklahoma State against a highly ranked Kansas team:
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports commented on the tumultuous nature of this college basketball season thus far:
The Jayhawks hung with the Cowboys in the first half, but they gradually watched the home team pull away in the final 20 minutes. Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World weighed in on the energy level of the eventual losers:
It was something of a surprising effort from Kansas since it needed a bounce-back showing after dropping its recent game to the Mountaineers. Tait commented on that realization as well:
Despite the large final margin, there were actually 12 lead changes in the first half Tuesday. However, Oklahoma State went on a charge from behind the three-point line to establish a 43-38 lead at intermission and never looked back. ESPN College Basketball discussed the first-half streak:
Oklahoma State hit 11 three-pointers during the game, many of which were set up by Evans' penetration. Evans himself only hit one three, but Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports pointed to the additional attention he attracted, which opened up the other Cowboys:
On the other side, the play of Perry Ellis was one of the few bright spots for the Jayhawks. He finished with 13 points and extended his streak of scoring in double figures to 13 straight games. ESPN Stats & Info noted he made some program history in the process:
Ellis' scoring aside, the Kansas defense was a problem for the visitors throughout the game. Oklahoma State shot 50 percent from the field and consistently found itself open from beyond the arc on the way to those 11 three-pointers. C.J. Moore of Bleacher Report remarked on the Jayhawks' defensive effort:
Moore added more context to the lackluster showing:
Kansas failed to stop Oklahoma State throughout the second half, and the Cowboys continued to add on to their lead. In all, the home team scored 43 points in that second half and built a lead that ballooned to more than 20 because the Jayhawks simply couldn't keep up.
Kansas was a dismal 6-of-22 from three-point range and only 13-of-25 from the charity stripe, which is not the recipe for victory anywhere, let alone on the road in the Big 12.
The Jayhawks have been in the discussion for a No. 1 seed all season, but they suddenly find themselves facing adversity after two straight road losses with marquee matchups against Iowa State and Kentucky on the horizon.
Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse, where it is undefeated this season, to face the unranked Texas Longhorns Saturday in its next game. It will be a welcome trip home after the recent road problems, especially because Bill Self’s team goes to Iowa State and then plays Kentucky in the following two contests.
The Wildcats have been inconsistent this season and are not the typical dominant force they usually are, but that showdown with the Cyclones looms large in a loaded Big 12. West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma and Iowa State are all realistic threats to Kansas’ throne in the conference this season, and the Jayhawks can ill-afford to lose too many head-to-head games against those opponents.
As for the Cowboys, Tuesday’s victory was critical because it snapped a four-game losing streak that put their NCAA tournament hopes in serious jeopardy.
One win will not rectify a 10-8 start for Oklahoma State, but it should give the team some confidence heading into the stretch run. It only plays one ranked team in the next four games (Baylor on Jan. 27), which means Tuesday’s victors have the opportunity to rack up some wins with an eye on getting back into the bubble discussion.
Beating the 11–time defending Big 12 champions is an ideal place to start.
Newberry discussed his team’s strategy after the win, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): “We said to ourselves that we would just come out from the beginning and play desperately, and whatever happened happened. We knew that we were going to give it all this game and that we had to learn from our past games. That was just our focus coming in.”
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford also weighed in on the victory and his team’s perseverance following a difficult start to the season, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
It was a great win. It was a great win. I told our team that it was one of the great wins that I've been a part of, just from the fact of what we've been through as a team. A lot of people would give up on this team, say certain things, but we've been through a lot injury-wise. But to perform at the level we performed at tonight, I was so pleased with these guys.
On the other side, Self summarized things from Kansas’ perspective, per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star: “I think about everything that could go wrong, with us, went wrong.”
Self also put things into perspective, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com): “We're so spoiled here. We haven't had many games like this over the years, but we've had them. Mature guys understand it's one game and bounce back, but it is disheartening at the moment. But we'll find out how tough we are.”
The Jayhawks are spoiled because of their success in March and over the long-run of the conference season. As long as they respond to their recent adversity and begin to play like they are capable of, Tuesday’s loss will be a distant memory come Selection Sunday.