A few hours after I wrote this column about the two sides to the Kansas basketball team, it occurred to me how unnaturally the Jayhawks’ 85-78 victory over Oklahoma developed Monday night.
If you’d had pegged Kansas for a seven-point victory (the Jayhawks were favored by 4 1/2), a reasonable progression might have been the teams trading blows for much of the first half with Kansas taking a small halftime lead.
Then KU extends that lead to double digits early in the second half, but the talented Sooners won’t go away, cutting it to a manageable deficit before the Jayhawks ice it at the line.
Every game creates its own identity, but Monday offered some of the wildest swings you’ll see.
Kansas led by 19 at halftime. According to the victory probability chart devised by analyst Ken Pomeroy, the Jayhawks had a 92.3 percent chance of winning the game.
And the chart doesn’t take into account the game was played at Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas entered the night on a 17-game home winning streak. And Bill Self’s record in the building was 183-9.
The Jayhawks had built that lead on the strength of three-point shooting, making eight straight to start the game. The KU media guide reports only one better shooting start in school history, a 1994 game at North Carolina State when the Jayhawks made all nine in the first half.
An unlikely shooting performance created a wider-than-expected margin in a game between two teams that appeared evenly matched.
Once the Jayhawks cooled off, Oklahoma roared back. KU missed nine of its next 11 threes, and with 11:02 remaining, the Sooners had caught up, 56-56. OU’s fourth straight three-pointer tied the game.
A 19-point deficit erased in 8:58! Incredible.
The Sooners led 69-65 with 4:56 remaining, and according to the same Pomeroy chart, Oklahoma now had a 75.3 percent chance to win.
Here, Kansas had its best defensive possessions of the game. The Sooners missed seven of their last eight shots, often forcing rushed, off-balanced attempts.
“The basket got thimble-sized for us the first 15 minutes of the second half, and looked like a big water tub for them,” Self said.
That’s how 20-point leads can become four-point deficits.