Kansas’ basketball players trudged off the court at Stan Sheriff Center and, after gathering their belongings in the locker room, headed directly to the team bus. They needed to get to Honolulu International Airport quickly to catch a flight to the mainland after Friday night’s lengthy 103-99 overtime loss to Indiana in an Armed Forces Classic contest sure to be remembered as a classic.
“It’s certainly a long way to come over here and lose,” said KU coach Bill Self, disturbed with many aspects of his No. 3-ranked squad’s play in its regular-season opener versus the No. 11 Hoosiers.
“You come all the way over here, you play 45 minutes, you’ve got to win. That’s the bottom line. We just didn’t do it,” Self said.
Indiana more than doubled KU’s production from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers, led by James Blackmon’s four threes and 26 points, cashed 15 of 31 threes to KU’s seven of 23.
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Big man Thomas Bryant hit two threes and scored 19 points, more importantly grabbing 10 rebounds in 28 minutes. The Hoosiers outrebounded KU 50-39.
“Physically they just beat us on the glass. That was the difference in the game and they made shots,” Self said. “We didn’t play very well (but) give them credit. Their guards got in the lane when they wanted to,” Self added, acknowledging the fact Blackmon may have broken free a few times past Devonté Graham (16 points, three assists, two turnovers) because of Graham’s lingering problem with cramps.
“We had to play out of foul trouble (Landen Lucas and Frank Mason fouled out in overtime; Carlton Bragg and Graham late in regulation) and we had to play small too often. They made some hard shots at the end of the clock,” Self said.
Of not defending threes well, Self said: “We didn’t count on Thomas Bryant to make the first two of the game. Blackmon threw in some late, and obviously No. 0 (Curtis Jones, 15 points, three threes) threw in some. It really was important.”
Senior guard Mason was a bright spot after scoring a career-high 30 points and tying a career-high in assists with nine. He had seven rebounds.
Mason had a driving layup and free throw that gave KU an 82-81 lead with 2:29 left in regulation. He had another layup and free throw and cut a five-point deficit to 87-85 at 1:04. He also tied the game at 87 with 39.9 seconds left, but did miss a free throw that could have given KU the lead. Mason sent the game to OT by hitting two free throws after getting fouled on a drive with 2.3 seconds left.
“He missed one big one. Other than that he was great,” Self said of Mason, who hit eight of 20 shots (just one of five from three) and 13 of 15 free throws. “He had some mental lapses, but Frank is so tough. Devonté has been struggling with cramps the whole time. I bet you that’s why Blackmon got loose a few times, late clock because Devonté wasn’t quite himself with his leg. We probably should have switched and put Svi (Mykhailiuk, 12 points, two threes) or Lagerald (Vick, seven points) on him.”
Tied at 89 entering overtime, the teams remained deadlocked at 91 with 2:56 left in the five-minute session.
Indiana led 94-93 when Jones cashed a huge three at 1:45. Mason hit two free throws to cut it to two points, 97-95, at 55 seconds. Lucas (11 points, seven boards) fouled out with 42 seconds to play. De’Ron Davis hit two charities to up the lead to 99-95.
The Jayhawks again cut the deficit to two on a Josh Jackson (nine points, 3-of-11 shooting) dunk at 34 seconds. Jones hit two free throws following Mason’s fifth foul to give Indiana a four-point lead. Mitch Lightfoot cut the gap to 101-99 at 5 seconds, but Jones broke free on the inbounds play and dunked at 3 seconds to account for the final bucket.
Tyler Self, who checked in for Mason, missed a three at 1 second and the game was over, the Jayhawks in a race to see who could reach the bus first. Self was the only person to speak to the media, the players off limits after the contest.
“It was obviously a unique way to start the season. If we had been down two late we would have shot a three or we would have missed out flight,” Self said, forcing a smile. “We would have either won it or lost it (on the three).”
KU will next meet Duke at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Champions Classic in New York.
Self before the game explained the Jayhawks’ travel plans.
“We’ve got to hustle to the airport to catch our flights,” Self said. “When we land in New York (on Saturday) we’ll do a walk-through or shooting practice for 20 minutes. They say physically that’s the best thing you can do when you are jet-lagged, not just to go to bed immediately. After that we’ll sleep the rest of the day and night and hopefully have a somewhat normal Sunday, (with) a light practice. We’re going to go to Ground Zero on Sunday. We’ll take our team there. Monday I think we’ll have a competitive practice. I don’t think we’ll be able to do that Sunday.”
Here are some facts concerning Friday’s opener: KU opened its season away from Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in the 14-year Self era and the first time since the Jayhawks lost to Ball State 93-91 in the opening round of the 2001 Maui Invitational. KU went on to place fifth in the 2001 Maui tournament. The Jayhawks won the 2002 Big 12 title with a 16-0 league record and advanced to the 2002 Final Four in Atlanta. … KU entered the game second in NCAA Division I all-time victories with 2,186. Indiana entered 10th with 1,783 wins. … The Hoosiers now are 8-6 all-time versus KU. However, KU entered having won six of the last seven meetings. Before Friday, the last meeting was in 1995 in Kansas City with the Jayhawks claiming a 91-83 victory on Dec. 16. This series dates back to 1940 with the first two meetings, both Indiana wins, in the NCAA title game in 1940 and 1953. … Self is 4-4 versus Indiana, 0-1 as KU coach.